Happy New Year to all of you! Sorry I've been AWOL,  but my daughter and I have been working like crazy to bring my new place into order. We're almost there and I'm going to miss her like mad when she returns to NYC on the 2nd. She's my best friend and THE best helper and organizer I've ever known!

Thank you my darling daughter!



Gingerbread Cupcakes

I thought I'd end my holiday posts with these little beauties. Last Christmas I took them to our Garden Club's annual holiday pot luck dinner. This year, because our club had money in the bank, (Shock!) we chose to cater our annual "do"; such a pleasure to get dressed up and not have to drag a dish and serving utensils along, which invariably everyone forgets to take home. 

These cupcakes were delicious. (Did you notice the rum? Mmmmm.) I seem to be on an Ina Garten kick right now, but I'm not going to apologize as I love her recipes. Anyway, these are easy to eat...you don't need a plate and what fun to serve them mini-style in these adorable little cupcake liners. 

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Icing
2009, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved

1/4 cup dark rum or water 
1/2 cup golden raisins 
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter 
1 cup unsulfured molasses 
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream 
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest 
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/3 cup minced dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup)

For the frosting 
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1/2 teaspoon orange zest 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/2 pound confectioners' sugar, sieved
For the decoration: 

6 pieces dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup), sliced in half

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. 
Place the rum and raisins in a small pan, cover, and heat until the rum boils. Turn off the heat and set aside. Place the butter and molasses in another small pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest. 

Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together into a small bowl. Mix with your hand until combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth. Drain the raisins and add them and the crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula. 

Divide the batter among the muffin pan (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. 

For the frosting, mix the cream cheese, butter, orange zest and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth. 

When the cupcakes are cool, frost them generously and garnish with a slice of crystallized ginger. 



Ina's Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

Have you made these yet? Honestly, frozen puff pastry makes everything so easy and you can try so many combinations with this appetizer. This was my first attempt but I've made it many times since and used other cheeses and other meats. Try salami, or goat cheese or add some black olives...anything goes. I tend to make a recipe that sounds interesting exactly the way it's written the first time, then experiment.

Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry
2008, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 pound black forest ham, sliced
1/2 pound Swiss Gruyere cheese, sliced
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.

Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and carefully roll it out to 10 by 12 inches. Place it on a sheet pan and brush the center with the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Place a layer first of ham and then cheese, also leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the border with the egg wash.

Place the second sheet of puff pastry on the floured board and roll it out to 10 by 12inches. Place the second sheet on top of the filled pastry, lining up the edges. Cut the edges straight with a small, sharp knife and press together lightly. Brush the top with egg wash and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve hot or warm.


Honey Cookies

It appears I share a German heritage with Pastry Affair....although I don't remember my grandmother ever making these cookies.  I love the spices, the coffee addition and the anise in the glaze. The sour cream makes these a soft cookie and after tasting them, it's no wonder the recipe has been "shared between mother and daughter, grandmother through granddaughter, and cousin to cousin."  Pastry Affair's family has a winner here.

Honey Cookies

From Pastry Affair

Yields approximately 4 dozen cookies

1 cup honey 
1 cup brown sugar 
1/2 heaping teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 heaping teaspoon nutmeg 
1/2 heaping teaspoon ground cloves 
1/2 teaspoon anise extract 
1/4 cup butter 
1/4 cup black coffee 
2 eggs, beaten 
1/2 cup sour cream 
1 teaspoons baking soda 
1 teaspoons baking powder 
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large saucepan, bring the honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and anise extract to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn off the heat and add the butter and coffee. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before adding the eggs, sour cream, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir well. Mix in the flour to form a soft dough. Refrigerate overnight. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a heavily floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. You may need to work in up to 1/2 cup flour to prevent dough from sticking. Cut out 2 inch round cookies, re-rolling dough as needed. Bake for 12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned and puffed. Cool completely before glazing. 

Anise Glaze 

1 cup powdered sugar 
1/8 teaspoon anise extract 
2 teaspoons heavy cream, plus extra if needed

In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar, anise extract, and heavy cream. If glaze is too thick, add more cream 1 teaspoon at a time until glaze is spreadable. Spread glaze onto cookies and allow to rest for a few minutes for glaze to set before serving.


Alice Medrich's Brownie Bowties

I love this cookie! So adorable and so delicious. What a great addition to your Christmas cookie tray. The cream cheese in the dough makes the crust so nice and tender. I froze a batch....it's always an advantage to be able to freeze your Christmas cookies so you can work ahead when you have time. And these do take a little time, but you can have them done in two hours. (Most of the time is wait time in the fridge. Don't let the long instructions put you off. These are simple to make.) 
Of course, anything Alice Medrich comes up with is the best! 

Brownie Bowties
From Alice Medrich via Fine Cooking Magazine

To make the cookies, you will need:

One-third of a batch (about 14 ounces) chilled Cream Cheese Dough  (recipe follows)
Chilled Brownie Filling  (recipe follows)
1 Tbs. granulated sugar; more as needed 

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with foil.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, stand it up on its rounded edge, and cut it in half (as if halving a bagel) into two equal rounds. Return one round to the refrigerator and, if necessary, let the other dough round sit at room temperature until pliable enough to roll. Square off the dough by pressing the round edge on the counter four times. Roll on a lightly floured surface into a 9x11-inch rectangle a scant 1/8 inch thick. As you roll, check frequently to be sure it isn't sticking and reflour lightly as needed.

With a pastry wheel or a knife, trim the rectangle to even the edges. Cut the dough crosswise into quarters and lengthwise into thirds to make 12 squares. Set 1 rounded teaspoon of the brownie filling in the center of each square. Set a dish of water on the counter. Pick up two opposite corners of a square, moisten one with a wet fingertip, overlap the corners by about 1/2 inch, and gently press them together over the filling to seal the dough and flatten the filling slightly. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining squares of dough, arranging the cookies 1-1/2 inches apart. If the dough becomes too soft to handle at any point, refrigerate briefly to firm it. Roll and fill the second piece of dough.

Sprinkle the cookies liberally with sugar. Put both sheets in the oven and bake until golden brown on the bottom, 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a few minutes before transferring them to racks to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Dough

17 oz. (3-3/4 cups) bleached all-purpose flour 
3 Tbs. granulated sugar 
3/8 tsp. table salt 
12 oz. (1-1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter 
12 oz. cold cream cheese (in bricks)  

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix briefly to distribute the ingredients. Cut each stick of butter into eight pieces and add them to the bowl. Mix on low speed until most of the mixture resembles very coarse bread crumbs with a few larger pieces of butter the size of hazelnuts, about 3 minutes. Cut the cream cheese into 1-inch cubes and add them to the bowl. Mix on medium-low speed until a shaggy-looking dough begins to clump around the paddle, 30 to 60 seconds. Dump the dough onto the work surface, scraping the bowl. Knead a few times to incorporate any loose pieces. There should be large streaks of cream cheese. Shape it into a fat cylinder, 6 inches long and about 3-1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in parchment or waxed paper and refrigerate until cold and slightly firm but not rock-hard, about 2 hours. Portion the dough by measuring the cylinder and cutting it into equal thirds. If you have a scale, weigh each third; each should weigh about 14 oz.

Brownie Filling 

 2 oz. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 5 or 6 pieces 
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped 
Scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
1/8 tsp. table salt 
1 cold large egg 
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour 

Melt the butter and chocolate in a metal bowl set in a skillet of barely simmering water, or in the top of a double boiler. Stir frequently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the water or double boiler. Stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir in the egg. Add the flour and stir until the mixture is smooth and glossy and cohesive, about a minute. Cover and refrigerate until the filling thickens and is fudgy, at least 1 hour.


Kurt's Chestnut Soup

OK, I know. I cheated. But I have a great excuse: unpacking from the move. Still, I wanted to share this with you before Christmas. A brief respite, if you will, from my cookie recipes.

When my daughter gave me Kurt Gutenbrunner's cookbook last year, I immediately wanted to make his apple strudel.

She said oh no, make his chestnut soup first, it's ambrosial. I meant to make it for you this December, I really did, but while I was in NYC recently, we went to Wallsé for dinner and I ordered it. And took a (not very good) photo with my cell phone. It was the easy way out when I'm so busy.  
Of course, Tracy was right, the soup was divine. She and Kurt have been friends for quite a while and Tracy's held several gallery opening night dinners at his restaurant.

Kurt has several restaurants, one right across the street from where she lives, Blaue Gans, on Duane Street in TriBeCa. She eats there regularly and I've been there too, but this trip, she treated me to a meal at Wallsé
. Double yum. As I have the cookbook, I'll share the recipe and the photo I took of the soup and hope you'll forgive me for bending the foodie rules by not actually making it myself. Next year, I swear I'll make it at home and let you know if mine turned out as well. (I very much doubt it.)

Chestnut-Soup Viennese Melange With Black Truffles
Courtesy of Kurt Gutenbrunner

3/4 cup armagnac or cognac
8 whole pitted prunes
12 ounces button mushrooms, washed
2 dried porcini mushrooms or other flavorful dried mushrooms
1 pound fresh peeled chestnuts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-size celery root, peeled, dark spots removed, and diced
Salt and white pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups skim milk, hot
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 fresh black truffle (optional) 

8 parsley leaves

Early in the day or the night before, put the armagnac, prunes, and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover the pan, and allow the prunes to steep for 6 hours or overnight. (The prunes can be refrigerated in an airtight jar for a week.)
Put the button mushrooms in a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer for 1 hour. Remove and discard the mushrooms (there should be at least 1 cup of juice). Pulverize the dried porcini mushrooms in a coffee grinder.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. With a sharp paring knife, cut an X into the flat side of each chestnut. Place the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the middle of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the shell curls. Remove from oven, and allow to cool. Peel and discard the shells, reserving the chestnuts.
Melt the butter over low heat in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the celery root, and cook gently for 5 minutes without browning. Add the peeled chestnuts, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the sugar, increase the heat, and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture caramelizes. Add the remaining armagnac and cook for a minute. Pour in the reserved mushroom juice and the chicken stock, reduce the heat, and cook slowly for 15 minutes. Add the cream, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Transfer soup to a blender in batches, and purée thoroughly for several minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain purée through a fine sieve, and reheat. (Can be made up to this point a day in advance and refrigerated.)Place 1 room-temperature drained prune in each of 8 soup bowls. Put the milk in a tall, slender container, and add ı teaspoon of the porcini powder and the nutmeg. Using a nozzle on an espresso machine or a separate foaming device, foam the hot milk. Divide the soup among the soup bowls, and top with a scoop of the foam, a shaving of black truffle, if desired, and a parsley leaf. Serve immediately.


Cranberry Rum Shortbread Cookies

It's December! Are you ready?
Get in the mood with this:

And then, by making these!

Calling these gems Cranberry Rum Shortbreads might a little off base. I'd call them RUM Cranberry Shortbreads. They pack quite a kick. You know what they say about listing the main ingredient first. Well, it's what you taste first.  :) 

Now it might be because I used dark rum, but I doubt it. Every year it seems I post a cranberry shortbread of some kind. I love having them in the freezer ready to slice and bake. But I must say, these are not your usual shortbreads. Not very sweet, although you could sprinkle them with some confectioners sugar, but oh the booze. Who needs sweetness when you've got dark rum as a flavor?? 

I plan to take them to a few parties this season. They look so innocent in the photo, don't they? Don't be taken in. Leave them out for your favorite Santa!

Cranberry Rum Shortbread Cookies
From Everybody Likes Sandwiches, adapted from a 1980s recipe in the Vancouver Sun newspaper

1 c dried cranberries
1/2 c rum
1 c butter, softened
1 T orange zest
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 c icing (powdered) sugar
2 c all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking powder

In a small saucepan, bring cranberries and rum to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes until the rum is absorbed into the cranberries. Set aside to cool.
Cream butter, zest, vanilla and sugar together. In another bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder – add gradually to the creamed mixture. Add the dried cranberries, stirring until just combined. Shape dough into 2 rolls, about 1 1/2? each in diameter. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375F. Slice each log into cookies about 1/4? thick and place on a prepared cookie sheet (I always line mine with silpat or ungreased parchment). Cookies don’t spread very much, so you can bake more at once if you like. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack. 

Sprinkle with icing (powdered) sugar if desired.


Chocolate and Peppermint Stars

Well, I'm back, sort of. First the move and then a trip to NYC to see my daughter. I will be sure to tell you about the restaurants when I have time. Deeeeevine! 

As far as the move is concerned, you really don't want to know what the house looks like. No boxes unpacked, furniture stacked in the middle of rooms while painters are working. Will I be ready for Christmas? I doubt it. Isn't there a movie called The Nightmare Before Christmas? It applies here.  :)

Anyway....I do have lots of Christmas cookie recipes to post. Here's the first:

Are you impressed with that photo? I knew you would be. These actually came out perfectly....no screw ups. First attempt, too. I'm not certain, but I think I found this recipe last year; the link doesn't seem to work, that's why I'm in doubt. Of course, it's Martha Stewart. And my best guess is it was in her magazine, Living. Whether you like her or not, she sure knows how to throw a holiday! It was great fun making these and they taste fabulous....this from someone who doesn't even like chocolate! But there's something about peppermint and chocolate teamed that gets me every time.

Chocolate and Peppermint Stars

Martha Stewart

20 round hard peppermint candies
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Finely grind peppermint candies in a food processor. 

Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl.

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until combined, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg, vanilla and beat for 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in flour mixture. until combined,about 2 minutes. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Roll out dough to a 1/8 in. thickness on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minuts.

Preheat oven to 325. Using a cookie cutter that has a smaller counterpart to use for removing the interior space. Cut out shapes and transfer to a parchent lined baking sheets. Space about 1 in. apart. bake until slightly firm, 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove cookies from oven and fill the center of each cookie with ground peppermints. Bake until candy melts, about 6 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets set on wire rack for 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and let cool completely.

Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw before using.

Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. 

Linzer cookie cutters are good for these cookies.

Yeild will vary depending on the cookie cutter used.



Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

(Be back in a couple weeks.)


Veteran's Day

Happy Veterans Day. Thanks to all veterans for your service, your courage and dedication. 


Faith's Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts (ROZ MLOW’WAN)

You're going to have fun here today! So many super links for you to check out, each containing a fabulous recipe. Why? Well, sweet blogging friend Faith Gorsky from An Edible Mosaic just had her first cookbook released: An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair. I’m excited to be participating in her virtual book launch party and sharing a recipe from her wonderful book. Congratulations, Faith! 
Be sure to visit her blog....she's got some amazing giveaways!

A little background on the book along with Faith's story: 
The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. Faith has a pretty unique story…after getting married Faith spent six months living in the Middle East, where she fell in love with the culture and cuisine. Subsequently, she returned four more times for visits, each time delving deeper into the cuisine and deepening her passion for and appreciation of the region. Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to Faith mostly by her mother-in-law, Sahar), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. If you didn’t grow up eating Middle Eastern food, it can be a difficult art to master; Faith understands that, and explains complicated dishes in an approachable, easy-to-follow way. The book is available to order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!
After you check out the recipe below, please head over to Faith’s blog to check out her
virtual book launch party to see the other bloggers who are participating. Also, as part of her virtual book launch, Faith is hosting a giveaway of a fabulous set of prizes. Be sure to head over and enter!


Faith asked me to make her Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts and below that you'll find her variation for Mixed White and Yellow Rice. The recipe is actually vegan so you won’t have any trouble incorporating it into a vegan or vegetarian meal, but it is just as delicious served with chicken, beef, lamb, or seafood, and it would be really fantastic with just about any curry dish. (In the cookbook, Faith recommends pairing Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce with this rice dish.  I served it with Sophie Dahl's easy Curried Chicken, which I make often. Both recipes take about 20 minutes, so the timing was perfect. (For Sophie's curry recipe, click HERE.)
My rice did not turn out as yellow as Faith's, probably because I used saffron threads and didn't have enough, but the flavor was there. I may try tumeric next time just to see the difference. But I did use the cinnamon stick and cloves as Faith suggested. I'll be making this often. Delicious!

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission

Serves 4 to 6 
Preparation Time: 10 minutes 
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
3 tablespoons pine nuts 
1 onion, finely diced 
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins) 
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water 
¾ teaspoon salt 
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
3. Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
5.Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice. 

Mixed White and Yellow Rice

Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes 
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) uncooked basmati rice, rinsed 
2 tablespoons oil 
1 onion, finely diced 
1 bay leaf 
2 whole cloves 
2 pods cardamom, cracked open 
2 whole peppercorns 
¾ teaspoon salt 
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water 
1-2 pinches saffron threads or ½ teaspoon turmeric dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan, cover and place over moderately high heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
3. Add the rice, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the boiling water to the rice, turn heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil. Give it a stir, cover the pot, turn heat down to very low, and cook 10 minutes (don’t open the lid during this time). 
4. After the rice is cooked, let the pot sit with the lid on for 15 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork. Transfer 1/3 of the rice to a separate bowl.
5. Stir the saffron or turmeric-colored water into 1/3 of the rice (the rice will turn yellow). Mix together the yellow rice and white rice; serve.


Coffee-Toffee Pecan Pie

Do you make more than one pie for Thanksgiving? Always pumpkin, but my dad preferred pecan pie. My mother's recipe was my old standby, but  I made this pie last Thanksgiving
 and just looking at the photo, I'm remembering how much everyone raved. And there's bourbon too. Be still, my heart. My dad would have loved it. (With a big dollop of whipped cream.)

Coffee-Toffee Pecan Pie
From Fine Cooking


3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter 
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar 
3/4 cup light or dark corn syrup 
1/2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup 
3 large eggs, at room temperature 
2 Tbs. bourbon 
1 Tbs. instant espresso powder 
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
3/4 tsp. table salt 
1/3 cup very finely chopped toasted pecans 
2 cups toasted pecan halves 
1 blind-baked All-Butter Piecrust  
1/2 cup crushed chocolate toffee candy pieces, such as Heath or Skor 


Position a rack in the center of the oven, set a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Immediately whisk in the brown sugar, corn syrup, and Lyle’s Golden Syrup until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly. One at a time, whisk in the eggs. Whisk in the bourbon, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Sprinkle half of the pecan halves in the piecrust, followed by the toffee candy pieces, and then the remaining pecan halves. Pour the syrup mixture over all.

Put the pie on the heated baking sheet and reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until set, 45 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. When the pan is nudged, the center of the pie will no longer wobble, but the whole pie will jiggle just slightly, and the filling will bubble at the edges.

Transfer to a rack and cool completely before serving. The pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Update on Sandy: My daughter has electricity, but no heat in either her apartment OR the gallery. Brrrrrrr. She's still better off than most. Hope the heat returns before the Nor'easter on Wednesday!


Mary's Cream Cheese Apple Cake

I hope everyone who was affected by Sandy is doing OK. In some way or another the entire eastern half of the U.S. was affected in some way. My daughter, who lives in one of the zones in NYC that was evacuated, missed the worst of it as she has been down here helping me finish up the packing. Finally, after three cancellations, she has a flight going back tomorrow afternoon. Still no electricity in her home or business, but she heard her water is on, so while things will NOT be pleasant for a while, she felt it imperative to get back and check on everything. I am keeping my fingers crossed for everyone.


This Cream Cheese Apple Cake from Mary at One Perfect Bite is totally delicious and was the hit of my Garden Club coffee last week. I made and froze a smaller loaf of it, so I can assure you it holds up beautifully to freezing, which is a huge plus. You can also see the cake cut in diagonals in my Apple Fritter post from a couple weeks ago.
Everyone loved this very moist cake, with just the perfect amount of apples. You've got to try it.....the cream cheese makes for such a lovely tender crumb. You'll love it. Easy to make, too. 
Thanks, Mary!

Cream Cheese Apple Cake
From Mary at One Perfect Bite

3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 pounds tart apples, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour two (9 x 5 x 2-inch) loaf pans.
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together and set aside.

Put butter, cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat ingredients on medium-high speed until mixture is very light in color — almost white — and texture is fluffy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl once during the process to insure that butter is evenly incorporated.

Crack eggs into a liquid measure and add vanilla. With mixer on low speed, slowly pour mixture into bowl allowing eggs to fall in one at a time. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl.

Add sifted dry ingredients on low speed; stop mixing as soon as flour is incorporated. Fold apples in by hand using a stiff spatula and scrape batter into prepared pan.

Place pans in the middle of oven and bake 60-75 minutes rotating pans halfway through baking time. When cake is finished, a wooden skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean. Allow cakes to cool 15 minutes before removing from pan. Cool completely and cover with a thick dusting of confectioners' sugar. Yield: 16 servings.


Swirly Halloween Cookies

These would have been so much cuter with Halloween sprinkles on the sides, but my box of sprinkles is packed at the bottom of a sealed packing box. Really, I didn't intend to do any more baking....so they got packed.

(Oh....and my packing? Many of you have asked how it's going......

Does this look organized to you? LOL)

Anyway....back to cooking. All I needed to buy was packaged sugar cookie dough so I decided to bake these yesterday, thinking I still had the sprinkles in the cupboard. Sorry about that. 
And....I really didn't take (or even have) time to practice getting the swirls just right. But one thing I did learn...chilling the dough in between each step would help a lot. (Never head into the kitchen when your mind is someplace else!)
You can go to Toni's blog, Make Bake Celebrate and see what they're supposed to look like. So much more professional than mine; her swirls are PERFECTION. And she had sprinkles in her pantry. :) You can see her step by step photos too, which are an enormous help... makes it so much easier.
They were fun to make, truly atrocious colors, aren't they? And perfect for Halloween, even if they didn't turn out as great as Toni's. Imagine them with sprinkles all around the outside.
(Am I the only one who feels weird about using colored food gels? And that one swirl really does look black in the cookie, but the photo makes it look brown.)

Swirly Halloween Cookies
From Make Bake Celebrate

Sugar cookie dough
Orange, black, green, and purple food coloring (use gel...it washes off your hands)
Sprinkles (!!!)
Parchment paper
Wax Paper
Lollipop sticks (optional if you'd like to turn them into cookie pops)

Step 1: Roll your cookie dough into a ball and then roll into a log.

Step 2: Cut into 4 equal parts. 

Step 3: Roll each piece into a ball and create a dent with your thumb, put some food coloring in each. If your wondering about the dent this will help keep the coloring on the dough and not on your hands. As you work the dough press the uncolored dough inside and push, roll, and gently work the dough as it colors from the inside out. Once you get good enough you won't have a single spot of color on you. (I actually wore plastic gloves.)

Step 4: Begin to roll each color into grape size balls. Somewhere between nickel size, and quarter size. Take the time and make sure they are fairly similar in size. Not only will this give you a good mix of color it's going to keep your cookies about the same size.

Step 5: Next take one of each color and very gently roll it together. It will kind of look like a beach ball.

Step 6: After all that rolling I found my dough was getting soft and warm, not good for coiling. So stick them in the freezer for a minute of two. They will chill just a bit and become nice to work with again. About half way through rolling the balls you may notice they are getting very soft again, just pop them back in the freezer for a moment and you'll be back rolling.
While your waiting set up your work station. You'll need a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to bake on. Some wax paper to work on and sprinkles and a knife near by. Also, go ahead and preheat the oven to 350.

Step 7: To make the coil start out by gently rolling the ball between your palms and then place on the wax paper. Gently and evenly roll out the dough into a rope about 8 inches long. I do so by first starting  to roll it out naturally with my hands facing front and then I turn one hand lengthwise to smooth out the bumps. See how the colors are all kind of straight below? Once your done give each end a gentle roll in the opposite direction to "twist" the rope reveling more colors. Particular I know but you want all the colors to come out.

Step 8: Start out by rolling in one end. If one end is thicker use that one.

Step 9: Now coil up the rest of the dough. I found it was easier to gently pick up the dough and allow it to drop around the center into a coil. Rolling the dough flat on the paper by moving the center around resulted in bumpy cookies. If your end is kind of funky or pinched due to rolling, simply cut off the very end  to smooth it out.

Step 10: Now gently pick up the cookie by lifting the wax paper and flipping it onto your hand. Roll the sides into the bowl of sprinkles. 

Step 11: Place on parchment lines baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. (Don't put them too close together as they spread.)


Apple Cider Fritters

Not often do I make fritters of any kind, but these were a delight. I served three things at the Garden Club coffee along with apple cider and, of course, coffee. Mary's Cream Cheese Apple Cake, which you can see on the left in the photo, the fritters (towards the back on the right) and some cranberry orange biscuits, which are on the right in front.

I know, I'm supposed to be packing, but I did leave the dining and living rooms fairly open so I could host the group of 28 women. They were good sports as they were surrounded by packing boxes. (You can see some in the background on the right.)

Back to the menu: the biscuits, I thought, were boring and dry. Of course, biscuits are supposed to be somewhat dry and they did look tempting and had a nice strong orange taste, but no, I'm not making them again. I may post the recipe later, but I'm not overly enthused. Perhaps for a tea? To dip? Like a thin scone?

For certain I'll be posting Mary's (from One Perfect Bite) cake later because it was far and away the biggest hit, but I'll go with the fritter recipe today. Yum. 
Even the photo says yum. It's just that fritters make such a mess, don't they? First the frying, and then the glaze dripped all over the counter, the floor and the next day I even found some on a drawer handle. It was worth it though. They're such fun to serve this time of year. I had some large panettone liners and they were perfect for serving.

Apple Cider Fritters 
From The Family Kitchen, posted by Ole & Shain Olmanson

1 cup apple cider
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1 apple, peeled and finely diced
pinch of salt
oil for frying

For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook apple cider until it reduces down to 1/4 cup of syrup stirring occasionally. Set syrup aside. Mix together butter, sugar and egg until frothy. Stir in apple cider concentrate. In a medium bowl, sift flour and baking powder together. Form a well in the center and add in the milk, apple chunks and the egg mixture. Knead into a soft dough. 

Heat the oil to 370 degrees F. Scoop dough using a small scoop or by pinching off small amounts and rolling into 1-1/2? balls. Add to oil and dry for 4 to 5 minutes until golden and cooked through on the inside. Remove from oil and drain on a wire rack and paper towels.

In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar and apple cider until a glaze is formed. Dip warm donuts in the glaze and set aside for the glaze to set. Enjoy.


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