CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY ORANGE TART

  I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving quickly crept up on me this year.  I feel that was 2016 in general as everything flew by so quickly; birthdays, the seasons, holidays.  It makes me somewhat sad, but happy at the same time.  I would say Thanksgiving is somewhat bittersweet for me.  I love the food and family time(even though it can be a bit crazy at times), but it pains me to say goodbye to autumn and hello to winter, which happens to be my least favorite time of the year due to the cold.

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  Anyway, this recipe was sort of a last minute idea and something I wanted to post before I hop on a plane and head south for Thanksgiving.  It’s a deliciously tart, cranberry tart with the addition of citrus and bittersweet chocolate- two, very complementary flavors to cranberry if I do say so.  It reminded me so much of my favorite chocolate bar: dark, not-so-sweet, with crunchy pieces of dried orange peel speckled throughout each bite.  The crust is crumbly with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor.  It almost reminds me of cherry pie.

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  I will say I’ve never once liked cranberries.  Well, until recently.  The only time we’d eat them would be at Thanksgiving and they were in the form of the ever so popular canned cranberry sauce.  Incredibly sweet stuff and not at all of my liking.  But, like most things, you have to start with fresh ingredients and see if you truly like or dislike them.  I despise most anything that comes in a can now, so it’s my motto to always use fresh when possible.  I try to bake by the seasons.  And so, I found my love for cranberries when I decided to use them fresh.  The filling for this tart I could eat by the spoonful as it’s just so delicious!  While simmering away in the saucepan with the citrus, cloves, and cinnamon it lets out the most amazing scent as it floats about the house.

  Speaking of cloves, be sure to remove all of them before pouring the filling into the tart shell.  I accidently left two or three pieces inside and they made their way into my mouth.  Biting into cloves isn’t very appetizing, as they’re a bit potent, to say the least.

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CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY ORANGE TART

crust:

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup super-fine almond flour

4-ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup confectioners sugar

1 large egg (+ 2 tablespoons of a smaller, slightly beaten egg), room temp.

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

cranberry-orange filling:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 orange slices

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks 

3 cups fresh cranberries

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon cornstarch

 

chocolate topping:

8-ounces bittersweet chocolate; chopped finely

4-ounces heavy cream

sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

 

method:

  1. With an electric standing mixer, add the softened butter, vanilla, and salt.  Cream till smooth and just combined.  Add the confectioner’s sugar and almond flour and mix on medium until just combined.  Add the flour and large egg, mix until it comes together, and add the two tablespoons of the beaten egg.  Mix on medium until the dough comes together(don’t over beat).  It should be a very soft dough.  Once finished, tightly wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours(until firm).  Once firm, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a large rectangle or circle(depending on the tart pan you’re using).  Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and place into the tart pan.  carefully press the dough into the pan till it’s fitted, then using a fork, poke holes all around the bottom.  Place in the refrigerator until firm again; while it’s doing so, preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C.  Once preheated, brush the tart with egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon water, beaten) and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the edges shine and are slightly golden and the bottom is cooked through.  Cool completely.
  2. Bump the oven heat up to 375° F.
  3. In a medium sized saucepan, add the freshly squeezed orange juice, orange slices, cloves, cinnamon, and then the cranberries.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cranberries have popped; remove the orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and cloves.  In a small bowl add two teaspoons of water to the cornstarch and stir until combined.  Add this mixture to the cranberries and cook, stirring over medium heat until somewhat thickened.  Pour the cranberries into the cooled tart shell and evenly spread around.  Sprinkle the orange zest over the top.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and cool completely.  Once cooled, remove from tart pan. 
  4. Chop the chocolate finely and place in a bowl that holds heat well.  In a small saucepan, heat the cream until it begins to steam.  Pour over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.  Spread around the top of the tart and let it harden.  Garnish the top with flaked sea salt or orange zest and serve.
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PECAN PIE WITH BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

  With Thanksgiving just a mere two weeks (plus a few days) away, I thought I’d post a classic dessert that is often found on holiday dinner tables this time of year here in the South- pecan pie.  This recipe hails from an old 1930’s church cookbook I found while walking about an antique mall not too long ago.  I adapted it a tad bit as I am not very fond of using corn syrup, so in its place, I used maple syrup.  Which, in my opinion, adds so much more flavor to the pie.  The crust is buttery and the pecans on top are crunchy while underneath is perfectly gooey; combined with the boozy caramel whipped cream, the entirety of it all is delicious.  Like other pies, this one did not last long in my home.

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I really love finding such things in antique malls or thrift stores.  The pile of church cookbooks sitting in small corners of such places is often neglected.  But they can be little treasures, really, especially the really old ones.  You don’t know what you’re going to get from them as it’s a collection of recipes from various people of various heritage. Each person contributed one recipe they deemed as a favorite that was passed down to them from generation to generation.  This cookbook I bought has many interesting recipes inside(some advertisements as well that I can’t help but chuckle at; oh, how far we’ve come!) which had me researching the ones I wasn’t familiar with.  The recipes range from fattigmann, rødgrød, and vanillekipferl; to blushing bunny, chicken cacciatore, and stuffed eggplant.  Then you have American classics like apple crisp, this pecan pie, and many others.

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PECAN PIE WITH BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

pie crust:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

5-8 tablespoons ice-cold water

pie filling:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup dark maple syrup

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

2 1/2 cups pecan halves

 

for the caramel

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 tablespoon bourbon

caramel whipped cream:

1/2 cup heavy cream, cold

1/4 cup bourbon caramel 

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

pinch of salt

METHOD:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  Add the cold butter in cubes and using a pastry blender or food processor, blend it into the flour till it’s crumbly(crumbles should be pea-sized).  Push the mixture to one side of the bowl and add 3 tablespoons of ice-cold water to the other side.  Using a fork, gently toss the flour into the water.  Add more water by the tablespoon when it becomes dry.  Repeat this until the dough comes together and all the flour is incorporated; it should be a soft, moist dough when complete.  Using your hands, shape it into a disk and loosly wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 25-30 minutes; meanwile, preheat the oven to 350°F.   Once the dough has firmed up some, place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it until it’s about 10-inches in diameter.  Gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unravel onto a 9-inch pie tin.  carefully press the dough into the pan using your hands and then finish by crimping the edges however you would like it to look.  Place the crust in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2.  In a medium sized saucepan, melt the tablespoon of butter; add the brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla.  Whisk over medium-low heat until warm(not hot).  Slightly whisk the eggs together and add to the sugar.  Whisk until all is combined.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and sprinkle on all the pecan halves.  Brush the crust with egg wash(1 egg + 1 tablespoon water)  if you would like it browned.  Bake for about an hour to an hour and 40 minutes.  It will be done when tapped with a spoon and the top is hard.  Cool completely and serve with whipped cream.  

for the caramel and whipped cream:

  1. In a small saucepan, add the water and sugar.  Whisk over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved, once the sugar is dissolves stop whisking and watch the mixture very closely for the next 5-10 minutes.  It should start to turn a light amber, when it does so, quickle remove from heat and stir in the tablespoon of butter.  Once the butter has melted, slowly stream in the cream and stir.  Heat the bourbon until warm and stir into the caramel.  Place the mixture in the refrigerator until cold. 
  2. Place a medium sized mixing bowl in the freezer along with a whisk that attaches to an electric mixer.  Chill for 5 minutes.  Once chilled, add the cold cream, caramel, and powdered sugar.  Whip until soft peaks form.  Serve atop the pie.  
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SWEET POTATO AND MOLASSES OAT COOKIES

  It has been some time since I last baked a batch of warm cookies; they seem to be the neglected baked good here on my blog so I thought it high time I sat down and created a cookie recipe to add to my tiny collection.   Since we are now in November(if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking what the heck, already?), that means an abundance of sweet potatoes from the month before!  Here in Virginia, October is harvest time for sweet potatoes- mostly in early or mid-October, as it’s best to harvest them before the first fall frost, which came really late this year.  

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  Of the many vegetables out there, one of my favorites will always be the sweet potato.  My mom bakes them quite often around this time of year and my favorite way to eat them? A good dousing in butter and a generous amount of pecans and brown sugar sprinkled all over the top.  Really, it’s the best thing ever, though, I probably ruin the nutritional value by doing so.  

  My favorite cookie this time of year will forever be molasses oatmeal cookies.  They were always my go-to when there weren’t any chocolate chips in the kitchen; which, believe it or not, was (and still is) a rarity in my home(even with my chocolate obsession).  So, I thought I’d combine my two favorite things and create these soft, not-so-sweet, sweet potato and molasses oat cookies.  Though the ingredient list may look a bit intimidating and long, they’re very simple and easy to make.  Once fresh out of the oven, they are sprinkled with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar, which, once cooled, gives the cookies a slight crunch when eaten.  

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SWEET POTATO AND MOLASSES OAT COOKIES

makes about 12-16 medium-sized cookies

2 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup super-fine almond flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 ounces unsalted butter, soft

3/4 cups brown sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 medium-sized sweet potato, peeled and chopped 

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon allspice berries

sugar topping:

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon molasses

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

finely chopped pecans (optional)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare a large baking sheet by lining with parchment paper or lightly coating with cooking oil.
  2. Rinse, peel and chop the sweet potato into thin chunks.  Fill a small pot half full with water and add the allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, and chopped sweet potato.  Bring to a boil over high heat, once it begins to boil, set a kitchen timer for 12-16 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft in the center.  Discard the spices and strain the potatoes; add mash until smooth.  Set in the refrigerator until cool to touch.  
  3. Meanwhile, combine and whisk the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices; set aside.  In an electric mixer with beaters attached, combine the softened butter, brown sugar, molasses, and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed until fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour and mashed sweet potato.  Beat on medium until just combined.  Stir in the oats.  Using a 1-tablespoon scoop, dollop the cookie batter onto the prepared cookie sheet, spacing two inches apart.  Using a spoon very lighly flatten each dollop of batter, keeping it in a round shape.  Bake for 14-16 minutes until the edges are slighly browned.  While the cookies are baking, in a small bowl combine the two tablespoons of turbinado sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of molasses, whisk with a fork till it’s combined; stir in the cinnamon and pecans if using.  Remove the cookies from the oven and sprinkle on a pinch of the sugar mixture.  Let the cookies sit on the pan for 5 minutes before moving onto a cooling rack.  

 

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GINGER SPICE LAYER CAKE WITH APPLE BUTTER MASCARPONE FROSTING

  The Barley and sorghum fields have been harvested and the {once} green, rolling hills of Northern Virginia are now brown and withered; meanwhile the bronze, red, and yellow hues from the hickory, beech, and red maple trees are scattered about the mountainside and valleys, creating a fiery picturesque scene.  Dotting the sides of the road are small farm stands selling freshly picked apples by the bushel, locally made ciders by the jug, mason jars filled with jelly of all kinds, and honey.  The air is crisp with the pleasant scent of burning wood and chimney smoke here and there- Oh, there are hundreds of things I could write about this beautiful time of the year, as well as the scenes and feelings felt within it.  It’s already passing by so quickly.  Soon all the trees will be bare and it will be brutally cold once again.

  But to every season there is always a downside, to me that downside is the withering of all the lovely flowers.  Flowers are a very crucial part of my blogging as they are practically the only ‘props’ that I use.  Just when I was saddened by not having any flowers to decorate with, I went on a walk around my neighbor’s farm and found a lone pink rose in one of the garden beds.  It was laden with rain droplets and was perfect in every way; alongside the rose were the prettiest purple mums.  In the end, I ended up smiling as it worked out.  But, pretty soon I won’t be so lucky.

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  As you can see if you scroll through my recent posts I’ve been doing a lot of baking with apples.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of baking with them and I’ll be saddened when the season ends.  Usually I would make my own products using apples as that’s something I like doing instead of buying it pre-made from a supermarket, but I was really anxious to bake this cake that’s been on my mind for quite some time(and was unable to bake as I was away from my kitchen); so, once I got home I made my way to one of the many farm stands in my area that was selling their locally made apple products.  I found the most delicious apple butter and it happened to be made by the local Lions Club members.  Every year they go out and pick apples from the orchards nearby and dedicate an entire day of their time in the kitchen of a community cannery making the apple butter.  They can a thousand or so jars of it and sell it around the county!  Even though I didn’t have time to make my own apple butter, I still got to use it fresh(with local apples, too).

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  My absolute favorite part about this cake?  Well, that would have to be the frosting.  I really wanted something delicious that wasn’t your mundane American buttercream, so I played with it a bit and added mascarpone cheese and a custard that was flavored with that delicious apple butter I bought.  It’s like a hybrid of American and German buttercream(and it’s oh so good).  It’s smooth to the palate when eaten and it spreads beautifully!  In the layers are the spices of fall(as I call them), a hint of vanilla, and for that tender and moist crumb:  more apple butter.

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*Majority of measurements used is in metric units.


GINGER SPICE LAYER CAKE WITH APPLE BUTTER MASCARPONE FROSTING

cake

175 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

500 grams granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 large fresh eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup local apple butter

250 grams cake flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

312 grams milk, room temperature

 

frosting

2 large fresh egg yolks

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/3 cup apple butter

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

dash of ground cloves

pinch of salt

method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and line(with parchment) three, 8-inch cake pans.
  2. In an electric standing mixer with whisks attached, combine the sugar, butter, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 7-8 minutes until light and fluffy.  Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, spices, baking powder, and baking soda until combined.  Set aside.  Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the eggs; beating one at a time until just combined(about 10 seconds each egg).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Add the apple butter and half of the flour mixture and half the milk.  Beat on medium until just combined; scrape down the bowl once more and add the remaining milk and flour, beat till just combined.  
  3. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 23-25 minutes.  Check for doneness at 23 minutes using a toothpick; if it comes out clean it’s done, if not, bake 2 more minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cakes rest in their pans for 10 minutes, then using a sharp knife, gently loosen the cakes from around the edges of the pan.  Invert onto wire racks to cool completely, about one hour.
  4.  Once cooled, assemble the cake.  Place the first layer flat side down on your cake board/plate/stand and add about 3/4 cups of the frosting.  Spread around with an offset spatula, then add the second layer, flat side facing up.  Add 3/4 more of the frosting, spread; then place the third layer, flat side facing up.  Add the remaining frosting to the top of the cake and around the sides(it’s a naked cake so there will be a very, very little frosting for the edges).

frosting:

  1. Place a small mixing bowl in the refrigerator for later use.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and vanilla and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat and stir in the apple butter, let it sit for five minutes(it will look very grainy, so don’t freak out!).  Using a fine mesh strainer/sieve, strain out the mixture over a bowl to catch the liquid.  Discard the pulpy stuff and set the liquid aside.
  3. Create a double boiler by filling a medium-sized pot with a few inches of water, then place a heatproof bowl large enough to fit on top of the pot without touching the water.  Bring the water to a slow simmer over medium-low heat then add the egg yolks and sugar to the bowl; stir with a whisk until the sugar dissolves and egg yolks look a bit pale.  Continue to whisk the eggs, then slowly stream in the milk mixture.  Whisk constantly till the mixture is thick, this may take a few minutes.  Once the mixture has thickened, immediately remove the bowl from atop the pot of water and pour the custard into the chilled bowl.  Again, whisk frivolously until the mixture is cool to the touch.  
  4. In an electric mixer with beaters/whisks attached, add the soft butter and mascarpone cheese.  Beat on medium speed until combined and smooth.  Add the powdered sugar, salt, and custard and beat on medium-high until the mixture is combined and has become light in color and quite volumized, about 2 minutes.
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CHOCOLATE RUM BROWNIE WITH SALTED APPLE CIDER CARAMEL

    Comfortably snuggled up in a warm, cozy sweater, quietly contemplating the morning view from a window seat someplace far away with a steaming cup of coffee warming my hands;  that is an ideal chilly, October Thursday.  One I laughingly wish I woke to.  Instead, I awoke to the worst bedhead, no clean clothes to wear to work, and an empty coffee bean container.  Even though the day began in such bad taste, I am grateful that the weather is beautiful and that there was a pot of homemade chili to eat for lunch on this semi-chilly Virginia day.

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  It’s been a busy past two weeks as my family awaits the birth of my eldest sister’s little boy any day now.  We’re hoping he stays put a wee bit longer until hurricane Matthew passes (they happen to live in North East Florida).  It’s quite nerve racking being six hundred miles away from almost all your family while there’s a dangerous hurricane on its way that will affect them and others where ever it goes.  I am staying hopeful that all will be safe during its chaos.

  On top of all that, I was having yet again one of (what I like to call) my rut weeks.  To refresh my mind, I made a quick trip to the apple orchard not nine miles down the road from me.  Upon arrival is a barn, and inside lie crates full of freshly picked red and green apples of all varieties.  In the back of the barn are more crates, but instead of apples, these are full with some of the prettiest looking decorative gourds, local pumpkin, and butternut squashes.  Lining the walls are glass jugs and mason jars filled with apple cider, honey, and maple syrup.  Each time I go to this particular orchard, it’s so hard to leave with only the apples I came for.  They also make some of the best fruit preserves!  It’s rather tempting.

  Arriving home I had my heart set on apple cider and chocolate, but what to create with two.  So, I decided on this apple cider caramel(which makes the sinfully rich brownie even more sinful), with a decadent chocolate brownie flavored with rum; there wasn’t but a couple tablespoons left in the bottle so, why not?

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CHOCOLATE RUM BROWNIE WITH SALTED APPLE CIDER CARAMEL

-brownie-

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cups cocoa powder

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons rum

2 large eggs, cold

-salted apple cider caramel-

1/4 cup apple cider

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoon water

1-ounce unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

sea salt 

-method-

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.  Grease and line with parchment paper one, 8-inch cake pan.
  2. Fill a pot with a few inches of water and place over medium heat till it simmers.  Place a heatproof bowl that will sit over the top of the pot(don’t let it touch the water).  Add the butter, chopped chocolate, sugar, and cocoa powder.  Stir until just combined.  Let it sit over the simmering pot till the butter has melted and the mixture is somewhat hot when you dip your finger into it.  Remove the bowl from the pot and stir in the rum.  Let it cool until it’s just warm to touch.  Once cooled, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  The mixture should be glossy.  Whisk together the flour and salt in another bowl, then add to the chocolate mixture.  Stir well with a wooden spoon till all the flour is combined.  Pour into prepared pan and evenly spread around the pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking for doneness at the 20-minute mark with a toothpick(if it comes out clean it’s done, if not, bake for 5 minutes more).  Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then using a sharp knife, loosen around the edges.  Invert onto a wire rack then peel off the parchment.  Let it cool completely, then pour the caramel over the top.  Garnish with more sea salt(optional).

-caramel

  1. In a medium sized saucepan, combine the apple cider, cream, butter, and sugar.  Stir slightly until just combined.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stirring occasionally, boil till the mixture till it becomes a light amber color, then remove from heat.  Add a pinch of sea salt and stir.  It should thicken after sitting for a few minutes, but make sure you don’t let it sit too long in the pot or it will start to become firm.  After letting it sit for a couple 3-4 minutes, pour over the brownie and garnish with more sea salt(optional).
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