Crème Brûlée

My son wanted a dessert that he could “light on fire” to celebrate his 12th birthday. I hope that this is age appropriate. 😉

After rejecting my suggestion of Bananas Foster, he chose a classic crème brûlée. andyes, with close supervision, he torched his dessert!

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten, via Food Network.com. I used large eggs, Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier, slightly adapted the method and increased the baking time. Special and delicious.

Yield: Makes 6 ramekins/servings

  • 1 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low-speed until just combined.
  3. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it’s very hot to the touch but not boiled.
  4. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs. (I transferred the hot cream to a liquid measuring cup to ease adding it into the mixer bowl.)
  5. Add the vanilla and liqueur and pour into 6 to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.
  6. Place the ramekins in a 9×13 pyrex baking pan (I placed a square silicone pot holder underneath the ramekins so that they didn’t shift in the pan.)
  7. Glide the oven rack out of the oven cavity and place the pan on the rack. Carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (I used a tea kettle.)
  8. Slowly glide rack into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken.
  9. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm. (I refrigerated them overnight.)
  10. To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly.
  11. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

and…

Of course, it wouldn’t be a birthday in our house without also having Number Cookies. 🙂 I had to make a couple of numeric “12’s” to go along with my son’s Roman Numeral “XII’s”. 🙂 They were swimming pool blue for my swimmer this year. ❤

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Dulce de Leche-Hazelnut Macaroons

These one-bowl cookies were quick to make and called for one of my favorite ingredients- dulce de leche. The crunchy roasted hazelnuts and chewy coconut provided nice contrasting textures as well.

This recipe was adapted from Quick-Shop-&-Prep 5 Ingredient Baking by Jennifer McHenry, via Scott Suchman of The Washington Post. I roasted and peeled the hazelnuts and adjusted the cookie size and resulting baking time. I double the recipe below and included them in my Christmas cookie assortment.

Yield: about 36 cookies

  • 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts
  • 1 cup dulce de leche
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Set aside a third rimmed baking sheet, unlined, for the hazelnuts.
  3. Spread hazelnuts on the unlined, rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the 350-degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until you see the skins crack.
  4. Immediately transfer the nuts to a clean dish towel; wrap up and vigorously massage the mass of nuts (through the towel) until the skins have loosened and fallen away. Discard the skins.
  5. When cool enough to handle, chop the hazelnuts.
  6. Combine the coconut, chopped hazelnuts, dulce de leche, vanilla extract and salt in a mixing bowl until thoroughly blended.
  7. Using a small cookie scoop, drop by spoonfuls (about 36) on the baking sheets, spacing the spoonfuls an inch apart.
  8. Bake, on the middle rack, one sheet at a time for 7 to 12 minutes, or until just set.
  9. Cool completely on the sheet; repeat with the remaining macaroons.

Make Ahead: The macaroons can be stored in an airtight container for up to 10 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

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German Lebkuchen

I love having at least one spice cookie in my Christmas cookie assortment. This year, I selected Lebkuchen because I know my mom is a fan of them. I only made one batch- what a mistake! I should have doubled it (at least)… Next time. 😉

This recipe is from Hannah of the beautiful blog Domestic Gothess. I glazed the finished cookies and omitted dipping them in chocolate. I weighed the dry ingredients and freshly ground the spices in the dough. They were wonderful!

For the Lebkuchen:

  • 150 g (1/2 + 1/3 cup) dark brown soft sugar
  • 150 g (5.3oz) runny honey
  • 50 g (4 T,  1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • finely grated zest of 1 naval orange
  • 300 g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 150 g (1 1/4 cups) ground almonds
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs

For the Glaze:

  • 150 g (1 1/2 cups) Confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 T water

  1. Put the sugar, honey, butter and orange zest in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.
  3. Beat the eggs into the sugar mixture one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. In two or three additions, mix in the flour mixture until well combined.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least half an hour or (ideally) up to overnight.
  6. To Bake: Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 (on convection) and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Scoop out portions of the dough using a large cookie scoop (1 1/2″ in diameter) or measuring spoon (about 1 1/2 tbsp at a time), and roll between slightly damp hands into smooth balls.
  8. Place them well spaced apart on the baking sheets and flatten them slightly with your fingers.
  9. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes until firm and lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Transfer the Lebkuchen to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  11. To Make the Glaze: Place the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl and gradually mix in enough of the water to form a slightly runny icing – not too wet though or it will all run off. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet.
  12. Dip the tops of the Lebkuchen in the glaze, allow the excess to drip off then place them right-side up on the wire rack to set.
  13. Once set, store in an airtight container. The cookies improve over time. An apple placed in the container may keep them more fresh.

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Pear & Cranberry Pie

Hello, and Happy belated New Year! I hope that someone out there has not felt the need to modify their diet as I have quite a few recipes to share from festivities at end of 2016. 🙂 My kids have winter birthdays so we are still celebrating in my house!

This delicious pie was from our Thanksgiving feast. The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Justin Chapple. It was originally a slab pie but I modified the recipe to bake it in a “new” estate sale pie plate that had to be used. It was absolutely wonderful with vanilla ice cream.

Yield: one 10-inch double-crusted pie

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • coarse salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 5 firm Bartlett or Anjou pears peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch wedges
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
  • vanilla ice cream, for serving
  1. Day ahead: Freeze cleaned, fresh cranberries in a single layer on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet.
  2. Make the Crust Dough: In a food processor, combine 2 1/2 cups of the flour with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and pulse to mix.
  3. Add the butter and pulse in 1-second bursts until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Drizzle the ice water over the mixture and pulse in 1-second bursts until the dough just comes together.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather any crumbs and pat into 2 rounds. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 45 minutes. (This can also be done a day in advance.)
  6. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  7. On a floured work surface or between sheets of plastic wrap, roll out 1 piece of the dough to a 13-inch round. Remove one side of plastic wrap and line the bottom of a 10-inch pie dish with the crust.
  8. Roll the second piece of dough into a 12-inch round; keep between sheets of plastic wrap. Place second crust on a cookie sheet.
  9. Refrigerate both crusts for 15 to 45 minutes.
  10. In a large bowl, toss the pears with the cranberries, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of flour. Spread the fruit evenly in the dough-lined pie dish.
  11. Cut the chilled, 12-inch round pie crust dough into strips to weave into a lattice. Form a lattice over the pie filling.
  12. Fold under the edge and crimp decoratively all around to seal.
  13. Freeze for 15 to 30 minutes.
  14. Brush the pie with the egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  15. Cover the edge of the pie with a crust shield. Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425 degrees and then lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake about 45 to 60 minutes, or until filling is bubbling, crust is golden, and the pears are tender; rotate halfway through baking. Let cool.
  16. Serve with vanilla ice cream, as desired.

Note: The pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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Ina Garten’s Apple Pie Bars with Browned Butter Glaze

I have to interrupt my Thanksgiving side dish posts (I know you’re upset! 😉 ) to share this indulgent, crowd-pleasing dessert. (A request by my dear friend who plans to make it for her Christmas Eve feast.)

Recently, my kids and their friends performed in a holiday concert at our house. This was our third annual concert! Everyone brings an appetizer and we eat while the kids rehearse. This year, the concert was upgraded to incorporate a microphone and some stand-up comedy. The parents were asked to perform as well. Special and fun. 🙂

Along with the appetizers, I always feel the need to include a dessert (as I love any excuse to bake). These pie bars had caught my eye and were perfect to serve at a large gathering. The recipe was adapted from Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten, via Barefoot Contessa.com. I baked them in a parchment-lined pyrex dish, used pecans instead of walnuts, (predominantly) Fuji apples instead of golden delicious, and topped it with a brown butter glaze inspired by Joy the Baker. Delicious!

Yield: Makes 18 to 24 bars

For the Crust:

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

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For the Apple Filling:

  • 3 pounds mixed apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (I used predominantly Fuji apples with 1-2 Granny Smith and 1 Red Delicious)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

For the Browned Butter Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • milk, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency
  • pinch of coarse salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Line a 9×13-inch pyrex baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Make the Crust: Place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and creamy.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.
  4. With the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter-sugar mixture, beating until combined.
  5. Scatter two-thirds of the dough in clumps in the prepared pan and press it lightly with floured hands on the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides.
  6. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  7. Par-Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, and set aside to cool. (While the crust is still warm, I use a spoon to gently push the edge of the crust back up the side.)
  8. Meanwhile, Make the Topping: Put the mixing bowl with the remaining dough back on the mixer, add the nuts and cinnamon, and mix on low-speed to combine. Set aside.
  9. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  10. Make the Filling: Combine the apples and lemon juice in a very large bowl.
  11. Add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.
  12. Melt the butter in a large (10-inch-diameter) pot, add the apples, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often, for 12 to 15 minutes, until the apples are tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
  13. Spread the apples evenly over the crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  14. Pinch medium pieces of the remaining dough with your fingers and drop them evenly on top of the apples (they will not be covered).
  15. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is browned. Cool completely.
  16. Make the Glaze: In a small pot, melt butter. Continue to cook until browned and fragrant.
  17. In a small bowl, whisk together browned butter, powdered sugar, a splash of milk, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth. Add milk as needed until drizzling consistency is achieved.
  18. Spoon into a ziplock bag and cut a tiny tip off one corner of the bag.
  19. Drizzle glaze over cooled bars before slicing.
  20. Cut into bars of desired size.
  21. Store, wrapped individually or covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (Without the glaze, the bars can be kept at room temperature.)

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Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Espresso Dates

This special pecan pie was less sweet and more earthy than a typical pecan pie. It originates from Sofra Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The bakery is known for blending American and Middle Eastern flavors. Browned butter, dates, espresso… amazing.

The sweetness in the pie is from a combination of Medjool dates and Lyle’s Golden Syrup, an ingredient I’ve been wanting to use. Although my mom said she prefers a more traditional pecan pie, my brother absolutely loved it. The recipe is from Food and Wine, adapted from the Soframiz cookbook by Maura Kilpatrick and Ana Sortun. We ate it topped with a choice of whipped cream or ice cream on Thanksgiving Eve with leftovers on Thanksgiving Day. 🙂

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
  • ice water

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups pecan halves (7 ounces)
  • 1/2 pound Medjool dates, pitted and chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Make the Pie Crust:

  1. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of ice water and pulse until the dough is evenly moistened. Gradually add more water if needed.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a work surface and knead 2 to 3 times, just until it comes together.
  5. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  6. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round; transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold the edge of the dough under itself and crimp the edge.
  7. Freeze the piecrust for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Par-Bake the Pie Crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
  2. Line the piecrust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edge.
  3. Remove the paper and weights and bake until the bottom is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

To Finish the Pie:

  1. After the crust has par-baked, reduce the oven temperature to 350°.
  2. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  3. In a small skillet, cook the dates in the brewed espresso over moderate heat, stirring, until very soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl and wipe out the skillet.
  4. Add the butter to the pan and cook over moderate heat, swirling, until the milk solids turn a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar with the golden syrup, espresso powder and salt.
  6. Whisk in the eggs, then gradually whisk in the brown butter until the filling is smooth.
  7. Set the pie plate on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Spread the espresso dates in the crust and scatter the pecans on top.
  9. Pour the filling over the pecans.
  10. Cover the edge of the crust with a pie shield to prevent over browning.
  11. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the filling is set around the edge and slightly jiggly in the center. (Check earlier to prevent over-browning,)
  12. Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool completely.
  13. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, as desired.

Note: The pecan pie can be covered and kept at room temperature for 3 days. The unbaked piecrust can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for 1 month.

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Ina Garten’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Most people make carrot cake in the springtime… I make it in the fall to celebrate my mom’s birthday. 🙂 It’s one of her absolute favorites. I have made this yummy version several times- they are special and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties that are Really Fun by Ina Garten. I cut the recipe in half to make 12 cupcakes, adjusted the baking times for a convection oven, and used the orange cream-cheese frosting from my favorite (springtime) orange chiffon bunny cake.

Fabulous! A true gold standard. Happy Birthday, Mom. ❤ ❤

Yield: Makes 12 cupcakes

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg plus 2 T beaten egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (less than 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For the Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 stick, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (I used light cream cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated orange zest, from about 1/3 of a large orange, about 3/4 tsp
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  3. Add the egg, mix to combine. Repeat with the additional 2 T of beaten egg.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low-speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
  6. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.
  7. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
  8. Using a cookie scoop,  scoop the batter into 12 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  10. Cook an additional 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  2. Add the zest and salt, beat to combine.
  3. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.
  4. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: If the recipe is doubled, 3 large eggs can be used to make 22 to 24 cupcakes.

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