Pies! And Recreating S’mores as a Pie

Given that I never ate a pie growing up, I have no idea where my obsession with pies comes from. Ever since I’ve moved to the U.S, I’ve made pies both during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I’ve already decided which delicious pies will become a part of my family recipes that I pass down. My favorite is this pumpkin and maple-glazed sweet potato pie with a graham cracker crust.  There are three reasons in particular why I have found this pie irreplaceable: 1) unlike most pumpkin pie recipes, I have found that cooking the pumpkin puree with autumnal spices such as cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, actually makes a huge difference to the depth of flavor compared to just mixing these spices into the batter 2) Pumpkin puree might be delicious, but most people might get sick of the canned pumpkin flavor throughout the pie. The addition of roasted sweet potatoes adds new flavor and a certain amount of freshness that compliments the pumpkin 3) Roasting the sweet potatoes in maple syrup actually gives the kind of sweet taste that is desirable, instead of the sickly sweet corn syrup taste that is present in most pies.

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The second is a bourbon spiced pecan pie. I do not care much for pecans, but my partner a) loves pecans, and b) is obsessed with Alton Brown. And I have to admit, his recipe for bourbon spiced pecan pie will win over many people who have the same feelings about pecans as me. Now this recipe takes way longer than than a usual pecan pie recipe, but is absolutely worth it. It involves toasting with pecans with a bunch of spices such as cumin, cayenne pepper, dried orange peel, and cinnamon. This goes a long way in adding depth of flavor to what can be an otherwise very sweet recipe. Second, this recipe has introduced me to the wonder of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. There is nothing that I hate more in the American baking pantry more than corn syrup. Thousands of studies have shown it’s not great for you, and if we have to eat something that’s not great for us, it should at least taste great, right? Except that corn syrup just has a one-dimensional cloying sweetness, and golden syrup is a wonderful substitute to overcome this problem. Thirdly, the crust has bourbon in it – which you can very much taste when you take a full bite of the pie even with the filling. So this recipe is also a keeper.

This year I have been inspired by a pie party that my friends and I had a few weeks ago. One of my friends made a lemon meringue pie, and I am excited about incorporating a lighter pie, something that adds acidity and freshness, to the Christmas dessert course this year. And finally, if you clicked on this post hoping to find a recipe for a pie, here’s one for a s’more pie that I took to the above mentioned pie party. It’s fast to assemble, and fun to serve (think a brulee torch and people excited by fire). The only downside is that this pie is incredibly rich, so you will probably not realize how stuffed you are until it is too late!

S'more Pie

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

Ingredients

For the crust:

How to make a graham cracker crust

Filling and topping:

  • 7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not more than 70% cacao; not unsweetened), finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 2 cups mini-marshmallows (highly recommend the Whole Foods ones!)

Directions

  1. Prepare the graham cracker crust in 9-inch pie plate and heat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Bake the graham cracker crust until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, then cool on a rack to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. While the crust is cooling, prepare your filling. Put chocolate in a large bowl. Bring cream just to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, then pour hot cream over chocolate.
  4. Let stand 1 minute, then gently whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
  5. Gently whisk in egg and a pinch of salt until combined and pour into graham cracker crumb crust (crust will be about half full).
  6. Cover edge of pie with a pie shield or foil, and bake until filling is softly set and trembles slightly in center when gently shaken, about 25 minutes.
  7. When the pie is out of the oven, add marshmallows on top of the chocolate while it is still warm so that they stick to the chocolate.
  8. Let cool for 15-20 minutes and then using a brulee torch, toast the tops of the marshmallows, and serve while it’s still warm.

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Chocolate Donuts with a Chocolate Glaze

The best donuts I’ve ever had are from The Spudnut Shop in Charlottesville – made with potato flour, the blueberry spudnut is my favorite flavor. Originally started as a franchise in 1940, the parent company is no longer functioning, but a few dozen shops across a few states still remain. And I have the good fortune of eating these spudnuts every Friday now and then, when they are leftover from the American Politics workshop. As I was munching on a spudnut a few weeks ago, I decided to go ahead and buy a donut pan. I am not a huge fan of frying desserts at home – we’ve made beignets in the past, and while they turned out great, I wanted something slightly (well, comparatively!) healthier and decided to bake some donuts. The chocolate donuts by themselves are not too sweet and they are great with a chocolate-glaze that I topped with some toasted almonds and sprinkles.

Chocolate Donuts with Chocolate Glaze

Recipe adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

Ingredients

For the donuts

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

For the chocolate glaze

  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425. Spray donut pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl (or stand mixer), sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. Add buttermilk. Stir. Add butter and vanilla. Stir.  Add eggs one at a time, stirring in between each egg. Beat until just combined.

4. Fill each donut mold about 2/3 full.

5. Bake for roughly seven minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Chocolate Donuts

6. In a bowl combine chocolate chips, butter and honey. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time until smooth. Do not overcook. When the donuts have cooled a little bit, dip them in the chocolate glaze and top with nuts, sprinkles or other toppings of your preference.

 

Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Sables

Having had a really busy summer, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from this blog. One of the things that makes a busy summer easier is food that does not take much time to cook, and I was fortunate to discover some pre-made cookie dough that I had made earlier this summer in my freezer! After having lugged my furniture and belongings down three flights of stairs as I moved apartments this summer, these cookies, among others, turned out to be perfect 10 minute desserts that I literally had to take out of the freezer and bake – both to reinvigorate me and whichever friends were helping!

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Sables

With a hint of sea salt, these dark chocolate sables are a light and delicate dessert, perfect for both an after-dinner snack or a pick-me-up during dreary afternoons. Like all cookie dough, I stored this one in the freezer in the form of two logs, making it really easy to bake a few at a time, so that you always have soft, warm cookies straight from the oven. In case the dough is too hard, defrost it for 10 minutes, which should make it much easier to cut away cookies of the desired thickness.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutched cocoa powder (ordinary cocoa powder will do if you do not have it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking sod
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt + extra to sprinkle on top of cookie
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped until almost powdery (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar)

Directions

  1. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda together into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream butter, sugar and salt together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beating until combined, then scraping down sides. Add dry ingredients and grated chocolate together and mix until just combined.
  3. Scrape dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and chill it in the fridge until just firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. No need to get it fully hard, or it will be harder to roll out.
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough gently — it will still be on the crumbly side, so only attempt to flatten it slightly with each roll — until it is  1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and space them an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle some extra sea salt on top of cookie. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (for thinner cookies) or 10 to 12 minutes (for thicker ones). Leave cookies on baking sheets out of the oven for a couple minutes before gently, carefully transferring them to cooling racks, as they’ll be fragile until they cool.
  5. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Alternatively, you can store the logs of unbaked cookie dough for months in the freezer, cutting away chunks to quickly bake some as and when you need them.

And in case you’re in the mood for similar flavors and happen to be visiting/living in New Haven, don’t forget to try out Ordinary’s dark chocolate cookies with sea salt served with some warm milk! Priced at $7, these 2 huge cookies are more than enough to feed at least a few people!

Cookies with Sea Salt @ Ordinary, New Haven, CT

Cookies with Sea Salt @ Ordinary, New Haven, CT

 

Chocolate-Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart

It’s hard to believe how the last few weeks have flown so fast – Christmas and New Year’s looks like a really long time away. The semester’s started in full swing, and as I settle back into my normal work routine, I can’t believe there are still so many recipes and foods from over the holiday season that I want to blog about! I miss all the wonderful food I had in Seattle and Portland and I can’t wait to write a blog post about the wonderful (and fattening, haha) food that I had in Portland, and what a great food truck culture that city has, but that will have to wait for another day.

Over Christmas, one of the gifts that I got was a tart pan, so I decided to make this tart whose recipe I’d been eyeing since last Christmas actually. So far an indulgent New Year’s day dinner, we decided to make this chocolate caramel macadamia nut tart – I didn’t have the requisite amount of macadamia nuts, so I used a mixture of pecans and macadamia nuts. This tart is actually on the heavier side, so I’d recommend cutting it into really small pieces while serving – one can easily serve at least 8 helpings from this 9-inch tart. The macadamia nuts combined with the salt in the caramel give it more of a salty flavor, which goes really well with the bittersweet chocolate. If you’re looking for a less salty flavor, I’d recommend scaling down the salt in the pie crust. My main word of caution before setting out to make this – read through the entire recipe once! It’s quite time-consuming, and will probably be hard to complete if you just start a few hours before you intend to serve it.

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Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2009

INGREDIENTS

Crust:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) ice water

Ganache:

  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt 70% cocoa dark chocolate)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted macadamia nuts (about 7 1/2 ounces), toasted , coarsely chopped

Caramel filling:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)

DIRECTIONS

For crust:

  • Blend flour, powdered sugar, and salt in processor.
  • Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1 tablespoon ice water and blend just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry.
  • Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Using lightly floured fingers, press dough firmly and evenly onto bottom and up sides of pan.
  • Chill crust 1 hour.
  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights.
  • Bake crust until pale golden around edges and sides are set, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove foil and beans; bake until crust is golden and cooked through, about 14 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool crust completely in pan.

For ganache: 

  • Bring cream to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until smooth. tart2
  • Spoon 3 tablespoons ganache into 1 corner of small resealable plastic bag and seal; set aside at room temperature for piping. Spread remaining ganache evenly over bottom of crust. Sprinkle chopped macadamia nuts evenly over ganache layer in crust. Freeze crust while preparing caramel filling.tart3

For caramel filling:

  • Combine sugar and 1/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.
  • Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is golden amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat. tart4
  • Add cream and butter; stir until any caramel bits dissolve and mixture is smooth.
  • Attach candy thermometer to side of pan and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Boil without stirring until thermometer registers 210°F, . Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and salt.

Assembling the tart

  • Remove crust from freezer. Working quickly, pour caramel filling into crust. Gently shake tart pan to allow filling to settle evenly in crust. Cool completely at room temperature, about 3 hours. Remove crust from freezer. Working quickly, pour caramel filling into crust. Gently shake tart pan to allow filling to settle evenly in crust. Cool completely at room temperature, about 3 hours.

    Let the caramel cool completely before piping the chocolate ganache on top

    Let the caramel cool completely before piping the chocolate ganache on top

  • Place reserved resealable plastic bag with chocolate ganache in microwave and heat in 5-second intervals just until smooth and pourable. Using scissors, cut off very small tip from corner of bag with ganache. Pipe ganache decoratively over caramel filling in crosshatch pattern. Chill until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled. Bring tart to room temperature before serving.
  • Remove sides from tart pan. Place tart on platter. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

S’mores Cookie Bars

It’s the perfect weather for making s’mores in New England as summer draws to an end, and if you’re looking to have that combination of flavors on-the-go or take to a party where you won’t have a fire available to make them, then this is the perfect recipe.

Combining the same ingredients and more, these cookie bars quite a flavor. However, these are also quite heavy, and the next time, I’d spread this same amount of crust listed below on a larger 13 x 9 pan (I used a 9 x 9 pan for these), because I think I’d prefer a thinner cookie bar. I made this batch to take to a movie at a friend’s place, but it would also be a great dessert to carry to a picnic.

S'mores Cookie Bars

S’mores Cookie Bars

Recipe from Joan Hayes over at Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows plus a few extra for the top
  • 1 regular sized milk chocolate Hershey Bar

Directions

  1. Line a square baking pan with parchment paper (I used a 9 x 9 pan, but I recommend a 9 x 13 pan in order to make a thinner cookie bar). Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Place in bottom of prepared pan and press down to form a crust.
  2. Cream 1/2 cup softened butter, add in sugars and cream again till fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla. Mix again. Combine Flour, baking soda and salt, then add to butter mixture. Once all combined, fold in chocolate chips and marshmallows. Spoon Cookie dough on top of cookie crust as evenly as possible. Don’t worry about spreading perfectly. Dough will spread as it cooks to fill in any gaps. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
  3. While bars are cooking, break candy bar into sections and place in freezer. 8-10 minutes before bar is done cooking, sprinkle remaining marshmallows on top, just to decorate. Return to baking for remaining time. Remove pan from oven and carefully place broken candy bar pieces on top. Let cool completely before cutting.

Wondering how else to recreate the taste of s’mores in ways other than this? Try this sinful-looking s’mores ice-cream from The Brown-Eyed Baker!

Chocolate Whiskey Pot de Crème

After a series of posts on what can only be described as light, summer foods, I decided it was time to make a decadent and not-so-light (read – pretty heavy!) dessert for a change. Chocolate and whiskey are a natural combination, and as long as you bake this dessert long enough, so that some of the raw alcoholic taste of whiskey gets cooked, leaving a nice smooth flavor, you have a winner on your hands! It took us a few tries to do that – the first time we baked it for 35 minutes and you could still taste some of that raw alcohol, the next time we tried for 45 minutes and it came out with a nice, smooth flavor, and having the perfect consistency as well. Of course, your times might be different according to your particular oven.

This dessert keeps well in the refrigerator for 4 days, so you can make it ahead as well. (In my opinion, it actually tasted better the second day!)

Chocolate Whiskey Pot de Creme

Recipe from Joanna Miller over at The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli’s 70% cocoa baking bar)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons whiskey (I used Four Roses Bourbon Small Batch)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 300 F and place a rack in the middle. Bring about 4 cups water to a simmer. In a large baking dish, arrange six ramekins and set aside.
  2. Chop chocolate into small pieces.
  3. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until completely melted.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine honey, egg yolks and whiskey. Whisk for about 2 minutes until thickened. Add the chocolate mixture very slowly to bring up the temperature, whisking constantly.
  5. Divide the mixture among the ramekins and pour simmering water into the baking dish until the ramekins are half immersed. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the outer edges are set. The middle will still be jiggly, but the cream will continue to set as they cool.
  6. Cool to room temperature for about 1 hour. Serve, or refrigerate for up to 4 days.

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Looking for more sweet dessert and whiskey combinations? Try this Whiskey Chocolate Mousse! Though if you want to first figure out which chocolate and whiskey pair the best according to you, read this on how to mix whiskey and chocolate.

Nutella-Filled Buttermilk Pancakes

On this lazy weekend, faced with the task of emptying my fridge (or at least finishing the large quantities of buttermilk that I had left!) before I left for India, I decided to make some buttermilk pancakes. While I’ve made pancakes several times before, they’ve never come out quite as fluffy as this time when I used buttermilk, so I would highly recommend including that as an ingredient the next time you’re going to make pancakes! I also added a dollop of nutella to the pancakes when I first dropped the batter over the pan, then covered up the nutella with a thin layer of batter. Overall, fluffy, decadent pancakes and a delicious start to the weekend!

Nutella-stuffed buttermilk pancakes

Nutella-stuffed buttermilk pancakes

Recipe adapted from Food Network. Makes 6-7 pancakes (possibly more if you’re not stuffing them with nutella)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (white should also work)
  • 21/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, plus some for frying
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup Nutella

Directions

  1. In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Beat the eggs with the buttermilk, vanilla extract and melted butter. Combine the dry and the wet ingredients into a lumpy batter, being careful not to over mix. If you over-mix, the pancakes will not be fluffy.
  3. Heat some butter in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet and put a dollop of nutella on the batter. Cover up the nutella with an additional tablespoon or two of nutella. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  4. Serve with some additional nutella or fresh fruit!

nutpancake