Danish Pear-Apple Bars

My husband isn’t partial to summer fruit- with the exception of freshly picked strawberries. He loves bananas, Bartlett pears, and cantaloupe. 🙂 Before the summer berry and peach baking season, I made these pie bars to embrace sweet and juicy Bartlett pears.

The bars have a Danish-style pie crust which very tender because it incorporates milk and egg yolks instead of ice water. It was really delicious. I also loved the cream cheese glaze spread over the top.

This recipe was adapted from 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More by Sarah Kieffer. I weighed most of the dry ingredients as well as the peeled and cored fruit. I also used fine sea salt and omitted the brandy.

It was a wonderful springtime dessert but it would also be fabulous for Thanksgiving.

For the Crust:

  • 1/2 cup (120 g) whole milk, plus 1 or 2 T if needed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 cups (355 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cup (2 sticks or 227 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 20 pieces

For the Apple-Pear Filling:

  • 8 cups (1100 g) Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced 4mm thick (I used 6 organic pears)
  • 1 cup (150 g) peeled and grated Gala apples (I used one large Gala apple)
  • 1/3 cup (65 g) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar, plus 2 T for sprinkling
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 T brandy (I omitted it)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Egg Wash:

  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 T (15 g) water

For the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 2 oz (57 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 T whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups (120 to 145 g) confectioners’ sugar

To Make the Crust:

  1. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the milk and egg yolks. Place in the refrigerator.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, granulated sugar, and salt on low speed until combined.
  3. Add half of the chilled butter and mix on low speed until the butter is just starting to break down, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the rest of the butter and continue mixing until the butter is broken down in various sizes. (most should be the size of small peas but some pieces may be larger) Make sure that all of the flour is moistened.
  5. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the milk-egg mixture, and mix until the dough starts to come together. If the dough is having trouble coming together, add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of milk.
  6. Divide the dough in half, place each piece on a separate piece of plastic wrap and flatten each slightly into a square.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until cool but still soft, about 45 minutes.
  8. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll one square of the dough into a 9×13-inch rectangle (22×33 cm). (I covered the top with plastic wrap and rolled the dough 1/8-inch thick, using a bench scraper to cut pieces and patch to form the proper shape.)
  9. Transfer the dough to a 9×13-inch metal baking pan. Gently pat the dough into the bottom. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  10. Roll out the second square of dough into a 9×13-inch (22 by 33 cm) rectangle using the same method. Place on an inverted sheet pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Use a food processor to slice the pears 4mm thick and coarsely grate the apple(s).
  2. Combine the sliced pears, grated apple, brown sugar, 1/4 cup (4 T or 50g) granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a small liquid measuring cup or bowl, combine the melted butter, brandy (if using), and vanilla. Pour over the pear-apple mixture and toss to combine.

To Make the Egg Wash:

  1. Whisk the egg, salt, and water together in a small bowl; set aside.

To Assemble:

  1. Fill the prepared pie shell with the pear-apple mixture and smooth the top.
  2. Remove the top crust chilling on the inverted sheet pan from the refrigerator. Place the dough over the top of the filling. (It does not need to be sealed to the bottom layer.) Trim any excess with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
  3. Gently cut a few steam vents into the top layer of dough. (I cut 11 vents.)
  4. Chill the pie in the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
  5. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  6. Place a sheet pan on the oven rack while the oven is preheating. (The preheated sheet pan helps crisp the bottom of the pie crust.)
  7. When the pie is ready to bake, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. Sprinkle the top with the 2 T reserved granulated sugar.
  8. Transfer the pie to the preheated sheet pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. (I baked mine for 50 minutes.)
  9. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool while you make the icing.

To Make the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  1. In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to mix the cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  2. Add 1 cup (120 g) of the confectioners’ sugar and mix again until smooth. If the mixture is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar until the desired consistency is reached.
  3. Once the bars are cool, top them with the glaze; spread to the edges.

Note: The pie bars are best eaten the same day they are made but can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Pecan pie bars are a favorite Thanksgiving dessert in our house. I chose this pumpkin pie version to serve along with a tried and true brown-butter and vanilla bean apple pie for our intimate Thanksgiving feast. (Yes, we had leftover dessert for at least a week!)

This recipe was adapted from a “staff favorite” Food and Wine recipe, contributed by Sarah Jordan. I appreciated the press-in crust and we all absolutely loved the consistency of the bars. Pie bars have the bonus of easier portion control too- which is crucial on Thanksgiving. 😉 Great.

Yield: Makes on 9×13-inch pie

For the Press-In-Crust:

  • 2 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour sifted with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter with the sugars at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  2. With the mixer at low speed, beat in the sifted flour-and-salt mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  4. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the 2 long sides. (I used a pyrex pan.)
  5. Transfer the dough to the pan and press it over the bottom and 1 1/4 inches up the side all around. (You can cover the dough with plastic wrap and press with the bottom of a measuring cup.) Be sure the corners are not too thick.
  6. Refrigerate until firm.
  7. Bake the crust for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden brown; halfway through baking, use the back of a spoon to smooth the sides and corners of the crust.
  8. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the crust cool before filling.

For the Filling:

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom, optional (I omitted it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
  • One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • Baked Press-In Crust (above)
  • crème fraîche or whipped cream, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the sugars with the spices and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.
  4. Whisk in the sugar mixture, then whisk in the pumpkin puree and the evaporated milk until smooth.
  5. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Lower the oven temperature to 350° and bake for about 25 minutes longer, until the filling is fully set.
  7. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.
  8. Cut into bars and serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche, as desired.

Note: Bars should be stored in the refrigerator. Serve chilled or at room temperature. (I prepared them a day prior to serving.)

Slow-Roasted Carrots with Browned-Butter Vinaigrette

These caramelized carrots were part of our Thanksgiving feast. Initially, I thought that the proportions were really off in this dish- only a drizzle of the amazing browned butter vinaigrette is used and I had a tremendous amount leftover. The proportions could be reduced, of course, but I have used the leftover vinaigrette with roasted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, CSA rutabaga, and more rainbow carrots. It is absolutely wonderful.

This recipe was adapted from chef Neil Borthwick’s “forgotten carrots” at Merchants Tavern in London via The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I modified the proportions and cooked the carrots in a cast iron skillet. I would roast four pounds of rainbow carrots next time.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

  • 2 pounds large carrots (I used rainbow carrots)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 3 extra tablespoons for roasting the carrots
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1-2 star anise
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons sherry vinegar, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chervil leaves or chopped fresh parsley
  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Scrub the carrots, and peel them if you like (it really doesn’t matter but I peeled them).
  3. Set a 12-inch cast iron skillet or a roasting pan over two burners on medium heat; put the olive oil in the pan.
  4. When the oil is hot, add the carrots and cook, turning as they brown, until lightly caramelized all over, 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add 3 tablespoons butter, spices, salt and pepper.
  6. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven, and cook, shaking the pan once or twice, until the carrots are crinkly on the outside and you can pierce them easily with the tip of a sharp knife, 45 to 60 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, put 1 stick butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the butter foam subsides and the butter turns nut brown, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  8. Put brown butter, vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper in a blender or mini food processor. Blend until a creamy emulsion forms, about 30 seconds; taste, and adjust the seasoning.
  9. Put the carrots on a platter, drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and garnish with the chervil or parsley, and serve.

Note: Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator to toss with other roasted vegetables.

Herb-Scented Mashed Potatoes

These wonderful, creamy and fluffy mashed potatoes had a subtle flavor from cream steeped with rosemary, sage, and garlic. My son made them as part of our Thanksgiving feast this year. I loved the contrasting texture of the crispy top layer.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Justin Chapple. I modified the proportions and broiled the potatoes in a 9-inch cast iron skillet.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T whole milk
  • 4 ounces (8 T, one stick) unsalted butter, plus 1 T melted butter for brushing
  • one 4 to 6-inch rosemary sprig
  • 1 4 to 6-inch sage sprig
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (I used Maine Cold River Gold potatoes)
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk and one stick of butter with the rosemary, sage and garlic and bring just to a simmer.
  2. Remove from the heat and let steep for 15 minutes, then discard the rosemary, sage and garlic.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Drain well, then pass the potatoes through a ricer into the pot.
  5. Fold in the cream mixture and season generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Light the broiler and position the rack 8 inches from the heat.
  7. Scrape the potatoes into a 9-inch round flameproof pan or baking dish (2 inches deep) and, using a spoon, decoratively swirl the top. (I used a cast iron skillet.)
  8. Gently brush with melted butter.
  9. Broil for about 8 minutes, until the top is browned in spots. Serve hot.

Note: If doubling the recipe, place the riced potatoes into a 12-inch round flameproof pan such as a cast iron skillet.

Buttermilk-Poblano Gravy

This Thanksgiving, we branched out from our favorite wild mushroom gravy to try this roasted poblano version. It was incredible. Because we roasted a much smaller turkey and made less mashed potatoes, I plan to gobble up any leftover gravy as a dip with tortilla chips. 🙂 It would also be wonderful in tacos or as sauce in a pot pie.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Javier Cabral and Paola Brinseño González. I incorporated a shallot as well as the roasted turkey pan dripping and juices. I also reduced the salt. Next time I will roast the poblanos in advance. I am going to start making it year-round!

Yield: about 2 cups

  • 2 large (3 ounce) poblano chilies
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T roasted turkey pan fat (can substitute 2 T unsalted butter)
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted turkey pan drippings plus vegetable, chicken, or turkey stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place chilies on an aluminum foil lined baking pan. Place under a broiler, rotating every 5 minutes, until skin is charred on all sides. (Alternatively, using kitchen tongs, hold 1 chile directly over a medium flame of a gas stovetop. Cook until skin is blackened, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining chile.)
  2. Wrap the blackened chilies in the aluminum foil to steam. (Alternatively, place chiles in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap.) Let steam for 10 minutes.
  3. Rub off skin from chiles, removing as much of the blackened skin as you can. (Don’t worry if all of the skin doesn’t come off.) Remove and discard stems and seeds.
  4. Finely dice the roasted chilies.
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add shallot and diced chiles. Cook until onion is soft, about 4 minutes.
  6. Combine shallot mixture and 1/2 cup stock in a blender, and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. (I used a Vitamix.)
  7. Place 2 tablespoons of fat from pan drippings (or 2 T butter) in same skillet over medium.
  8. Whisk in flour, and reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  9. Increase heat to medium and add shallot-chile puree and remaining 1 cup pan drippings with stock, and cook, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
  10. Reduce heat to low; add buttermilk. Simmer gently to allow flavors to meld, about 2 minutes.
  11. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Note: Poblano peppers can be roasted, peeled, and cut 2 days ahead.

Vanilla Pear Sour

This festive seasonal cocktail was absolutely fabulous. My husband and I enjoyed it prior to our quiet Thanksgiving feast this year.

This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver via francoiselaprune.com. I poached thin slices of pear so that I could use them as a garnish. I may poach even larger slices next time. We preferred it with a little bit less alcohol so I noted a range in the recipe below.

The delicious pear syrup can be made in advance, making this perfect for Thanksgiving or a party. We used the leftover syrup to make more cocktails! 😉 It could also be drizzled over ice cream.

Yield: Makes one drink (plus additional Vanilla Pear Syrup)

For the Vanilla Pear Syrup: (makes enough syrup for approximately 10 drinks)

  • 1 Bartlett pear, cut in half or quartered, cored, & cut into thin slices
  • 200 g (7.1 ounces, 1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 200 ml (7 ounces, scant 1 cup) water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

For the Cocktail:

  • 30ml (1 ounce, 2 T) Vanilla Pear Syrup
  • 30ml (1 ounce, 2 T) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 44 to 50ml (1.5 to 1.75 ounces) vodka
  • ice cubes
  • poached pear slices, for garnish
  1. Add the pear slices, sugar, water, vanilla seeds with vanilla bean pod to a small saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Let the poaching liquid infuse and cool down for another 30 minutes.
  3. Strain through a fine wire mesh strainer, reserving the poached pear slices for garnish. Keep pear syrup in a jar in the refrigerator; it will keep for 5 days.
  4. Combine the lemon juice, vodka and 30ml of the vanilla pear syrup into a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass with ice.
  5. Garnish with a thin pear slice (or two).

Note: This cocktail was also wonderful with Meyer lemon juice. (I used the juice of my very first lemon from my Meyer lemon tree!) 🙂

Thanksgiving Menu 2020

Happy belated Thanksgiving and Happy Holiday Season to everyone! We definitely missed our extended family at Thanksgiving this year but our quiet feast was still lovely.

I love to post my Thanksgiving Menu to help me plan in the future. Hopefully some of my menu choices are helpful to others too. I will link the new menu items to posts as soon as I am able.

I decreased the proportions for our small scale feast but we still made quite a variety of dishes in order to accommodate everyone’s favorites. My kids actively participated in the cooking process throughout the day which was the absolute highlight for me. 🙂

We tried a new gravy this year- this change would have been met with great objection from our extended family. 😉 It incorporated roasted poblano chilies, a favorite flavor in our house. We also enjoyed a new festive cocktail which was so fabulous I plan to incorporate it into the menu next year.

Breakfast:

Lunch:

Festive Cocktail:

Dinner:

Leftover Dishes:

Yes! My cat, Franklin “the Fluff,” has an Instagram page. ❤

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