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Friday, November 23, 2012

Pecan pie

I made a pecan pie for Thanksgiving dinner.  I made it for the first time and brought it with me to Thanksgiving dinner without having ever made the pie before.  And I couldn't sample it beforehand (not that it would've mattered....I've never had more than a bite of pecan pie, and I wouldn't know a good pecan pie if it hit me in the face).  So un-Julie, right?

I was a little nervous about the pie because it had one of those ingredients that I dislike.  And it didn't really seem to go with the other ingredients.  Butter and brown sugar?  Makes sense.  Add some vanilla, a little salt, and some corn syrup?  Yup, still makes sense.  Add some.....orange zest?  I was perplexed.  But, having never baked - or really tasted - a pecan pie before, I didn't want to leave it out and ruin the pie, so I added some orange zest.  Less than the recipe called for, but I did add some.  The result was pretty amazing, if you ask the 7 other people at the table that raved about the pie.  I took two bites, thought it was good for a pecan pie, and went back to eating the apple pie (which I also made, and the post will be up soon).  That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but I really don't like pecan pie, so it actually is quite the compliment to this recipe

Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie



1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 5 tablespoons ice water


3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest (I used just a little).
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups pecan halves (1/2 pound)


Make the crust.

Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps.
Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in processor) until incorporated.
Squeeze a small handful: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated, then test again.
Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions.
With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a 5-inch disk.
Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F with a baking sheet on middle rack.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie plate.
Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang.
Fold overhang under and lightly press against rim of pie plate, then crimp decoratively.
Lightly prick bottom all over with a fork. Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes (or freeze 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat.
Add brown sugar, whisking until smooth.
Remove from heat and whisk in corn syrup, vanilla, zest, and salt.
Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk in corn syrup mixture.

Put pecans in pie shell and pour corn syrup mixture evenly over them.
Bake on hot baking sheet until filling is set, 50 minutes to 1 hour (Mine took 35-40 minutes). Cool completely.
Serve with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spiced pumpkin cupcakes with spiced buttercream

The weekend between my family's "pre-Thanksgiving" dinner and actual Thanksgiving was a busy one.  I had plans Friday night, Saturday night was a party with friends out on Long Island, and Sunday night we went out for dinner to celebrate my sister passing the New York State Bar Exam (she has also since found out that she passed the New Jersey one as well!!).

The party on Long Island was the second annual version of a party that we deemed "Sloshapalooza" or "Sloshfest" for short.  It's a combination of good food, good friends, a drink mixing competition, a funny T-shirt contest, and usually ends with some Wii dancing game.  This year, since it fell less than a week before Thanksgiving, when I offered to make dessert, the suggestion was for something Thanksgiving-y.

Besides looking for something holiday-themed, I also needed something that transports well.  Cupcakes seemed like a good option, but this time I did something uncharacteristically Julie.  I made full sized cucpakes, not minis!

I started out with the spiced pumpkin cake recipe that I used last year for the fall-themed
cakelets, upping the spices from the original recipe because I didn't think it originally tasted that spiced.  Then, I went with an improperly-named cinnamon buttercream to top them off.  Why do I call it an "improperly-named" cinnamon buttercream?  Because it isn't simply a cinnamon buttercream, it's a cinnamon-nutmeg-ginger-cardamom buttercream.  And it's delicious (a strong word coming from me, since you have all probably heard my rant animated discussion opinion on "pumpkin pie" spices and my dislike of almost all spices pumpkin pie-related (cinnamon, ginger, and occasionally nutmeg are, however, OK in my book)).

The cupcakes were a great success....and I even heard that they made for a delicious breakfast the following day!

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes
Recipe originally from this Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Caramel and Cream Cheese Frosting, which I have made before and strongly recommend trying that frosting, too!
I got 29 full-sized cupcakes from this recipe.


3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I used 2 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I used 1 tsp)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
I also add a shake of pumpkin pie spice to up the spice factor a little more
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel (I used less.  I can't say how much less, but I don't love orange zest in things, so I limited it a little.  A small amount of orange zest brings out the flavor of the pumpkin, I think)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides, tapping out any excess flour. Or line cupcake tins with pretty liners (I used brown liners with gold lines on them)
Whisk first 9 ingredients in large bowl.
Using electric mixer, beat pumpkin, sugar, and oil in another large bowl.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to incorporate between additions.
Mix in orange peel.
Add flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend.
Divide batter between cupcake tins.
Spiced Buttercream Icing
Adapted from this "Cinnamon" Buttercream recipe I found on Pinterest
I doubled the recipe and had enough icing for 28 of the 29 cupcakes
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp cold milk, if needed to thin icing
In a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is creamy.
On low, mix in the vanilla and the spices.
Carefully beat in the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time.
If the buttercream is too thick add 1-2 tbsps of cold milk until the desired consistency is reached (I didn't use the milk)
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes with your favorite frosting tip.
Decorate with fun, festive sprinkles if you'd like.  I used autumn leaves.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Key lime pie

I did it again.  I baked a pie to test it out before I serve it to others.  The problem with pies (and cakes) is that in order to sample them, you have to cut into them....and then they're missing a slice.  And really, it's not very polite to show up at someone's home with 88% of a pie!

This year, my family is having a "pre-Thanksgiving" dinner in addition to our regular Thanksgiving dinner.  One of my sisters is leaving the country before Thanksgiving, and will be away for a few months, and one of her requests was to have a "pre-Thanksgiving" Thanksgiving dinner before she left.  Last year we had a non-traditional meal, and so it was decided that we would repeat that meal for "pre-Thanksgiving" and we'd have our turkey dinner on actual Thanksgiving.

The request for this year's pies came before we even finished clearing the dessert table last Thanksgiving.  Key Lime Pie was my cousin's request.  My other cousin decided that there needed to be a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner (which later turned into the fact that there needed to be a pumpkin pie at pre-Thanksgiving dinner since she, too, would not be at actual Thanksgiving).  So I set out to make the two pies for pre-Thanksgiving dinner.

This key lime pie was a HUGE hit!  Every one loved it, and we were serving such tiny slivers to the 20 (yes, 20!!) guests to guarantee that everyone got at least a taste!

Key Lime Pie


For the crust:

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling:

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice (if using bottled, they say "preferably Manhattan brand") (I found key limes two weeks before I made the pie, but when I went back to the grocery store to make the pies, they had no key limes....so this is actually a lime pie)
Some freshly grated lime zest

For topping:

3/4 cup chilled heavy cream


Make crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.
Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack.
 Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie:

Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well.
Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).
Add lime zest.

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes.
Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Make topping (I made whipped cream, with a little vanilla and sugar, instead of just whipping the cream as the recipe suggests):

Just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream.  I added piped whipped cream with a sprinkling of lime zest - my original thought was to add small wedges of key limes, but they were drippy with lime juice and I didnt want them to ruin the whipped cream.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cake balls

My friend L was supposed to run the New York City marathon last weekend, but it was canceled post-Hurricane Sandy.  The night before the marathon, L was hosting a pasta dinner, and after the marathon was canceled, she decided to host it anyway (by the way, she was amazing and made HOMEMADE pasta for 15 people!!).  Of course, at the first mention of a dinner party, I offered to make dessert.  I asked L what she might want, and "cake balls" was her instantaneous response. 

I've posted cake balls and cake pops before, but I figured I'd post a picture of the cake balls from this past weekend in honor of L and her dedication and all the time she spent training for the marathon!

Chocolate, olive oil, and sea salt cupcakes

Chocolate.  Sea salt.  Olive Oil.  Together, in one (mini) cupcake!

I saw this recipe and immediately thought that I had to make it.  Sea salt and chocolate?  Sign me up!  Plus, years ago I had an amazing olive oil gelato, so I figured olive oil in dessert couldn't be that bad.  My only qualm about the cupcakes was the orange zest in the cupcakes (I'm not a huge fan of zest, especially orange zest).  Sadly, I thought that the cupcakes were a little too orangy, and then next time I make them, I'll probably skip the zest altogether.


Chocolate, Olive Oil, & Sea Salt Cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
1 packed tsp finely grated orange zest (I would leave this out next time)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the chocolate ganache:
7oz good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy whipping
Optional: 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted (I left this part out - I might add the sugar and whip it next time)

Sea salt, to sprinkle on top


Preheat oven to about 325°F.
Place 8-10 paper liners in a cupcake tray (I used 27 mini cupcake liners).
Whisk eggs, yolk, granulated sugar and orange zest in a medium bowl until foamy.
Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until combined.
Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl.
Fold into egg mixture in 3 additions.
Fill cupcake papers, about 2/3 full, and bake until light gold and testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 15 minutes.
Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.

Prepare the ganache; place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.
Gently heat cream in a small saucepan until it just comes to the boil.
Pour over the top of chocolate and set aside for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.
Use a whisk to stir the mixture together until smooth.
Chill until it reaches room temperature and thickens.
At this point you can spread the ganache over the top of your cupcakes (what I did last time), or if you prefer you can add the confectioner's sugar and beat the mixture using an electric mixer to make it fluffy (beating the mixture increases the risk that it will split, so be careful not to overmix - I may try this next time).
Spoon or pipe over the top of cupcakes and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on top.
Serve immediately, or store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.