Tag Archives: walnuts

Twenty-Five Days of Cookies: Chocolate Butter Crunch

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Christmas is eighteen days (gulp) away and what better way is there to countdown to the big event than to feature a cookie recipe each day? Think of it as a cookie recipe advent calendar. And to fill that advent calendar I’m featuring twenty five of my favorite holiday cookie recipes that are sure to fill your holidays with cheer. Bake them to fill your cookie trays, bring them to a cookie swap or eat them yourself; they are guaranteed to bring about holiday joy. And if you love baking as much as I do, making them is a fun filled gift unto itself. Enjoy!

These tasty treats adapted from King Arthur Flour are more of a candy than a cookie but they are the perfect addition to any holiday cookie tray. I prefer to use bittersweet chocolate because I love the flavor contrast with the rich buttery toffee. And the nuts? Pick whichever variety you like best. I used walnuts this time around but have also used pecans or almonds. They are all good! But because this candy, be sure to use a candy thermometer and watch the temperature carefully. The syrup goes from not done to  over done in a matter of seconds.

CHOCOLATE BUTTE CRUNCH

1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups whole walnut halves, lightly chopped

1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

  • Melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan.
  • Stir in the sugar, water and maple syrup and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Boil gently, over medium heat, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer). The syrup will bubble without seeming th change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it’s ready. This whole process should take about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the nuts, in a fairly closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  • Top with half the chocolate.
  • When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate.
  • Immediately top with the remaining chocolate, then the remaining nuts.
  • Wait several minutes, then gently, using the back of a spatula, press down on the chocolate-nut layer to spread the chocolate around evenly.
  • While the candy is still slightly warm, use a spatula to loosen it from the baking sheet. When cool, break it into uneven chunks.

Yield: About 24 big bite-sized pieces

Mini Eggnog Coffee Cakes

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Eggnog is a mainstay of the holiday season but who says you need to only drink it?  These individual sized coffee cakes with a hint of eggnog flavor are the perfect holiday season breakfast treat.  The recipe is adapted from one posted on the Yankee Kitchen Ninja blog and is especially tasty when you use my homemade eggnog recipe.

I made these cakes in one cup miniature bundt pans (shaped like little holiday presents none the less–who knew I even had these in my baking cabinets???) but alternatively you could make a single 9-inch bundt or tube pan.  If you go this route simply increase the baking time to between 50 minutes and one hour.

MINI EGGNOG COFFEE CAKES

For the topping and center layer:

1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the cakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

14 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup homemade eggnog

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly coat an six-cup individual bundt pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
  • With a mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a medium-sized bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Reducing the speed to low, beat in one-third of the eggnog mixture.  Add in one-third of the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated.
  • Repeat adding the eggnog and flour until it is all incorporated.
  • Sprinkle half of the nut and sugar mixture over the bottom of the prepared baking pans.
  • Carefully place half of the batter on top of the nuts then sprinkle with the remaining nuts.
  • Spoon in the remaining batter.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and allow to sit on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove from the pans and allow to cool completely.

Yields:  6 mini coffee cakes

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble

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I’m still on my rhubarb kick so here is my latest rhubarb creation- a strawberry-rhubarb crumble. A fruit crumble is my favorite way to use fresh fruit; it has all of the tastiness of a pie without the hassle of struggling with a pie crust. Instead, you have juicy fruit topped with a crumbly topping, which in this case is a combination of nuts, oatmeal, and flour. It’s fool proof, delicious, and fast to make. I like it best served warm so you can put it in the oven shortly before dinner is served and dessert will be done by the time you are ready for your final course. To make the crumble extra special top it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Yum!

STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB CRUMBLE

For the topping:

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup old fashioned oats (do not use quick or instant0

1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

3 tablespoons white sugar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 quart strawberries, hulled and sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Pinch of salt

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • To prepare the topping combine the flour, baking powder, salt, oatmeal, walnuts, sugars and lemon zest in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle with the melted butter then use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients until small clumps form. Set aside until ready to use.
  • To prepare the filling, combine the rhubarb strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a 9-inch deep dish pie dish.
  • Cover the top of the fruit with a thick but even layer of the topping.
  • Bake until the topping golden brown and the fruit is bubbly, 40 to 50 minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly before serving.
  • Top with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Serves 4-6

Maple-Bacon Spiced Nuts

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I love nuts.  From almonds to pistachios, hazelnuts to walnuts and everything in between they are one of  my favorite go to snacks.  And because they are filled with protein, in small quantities they are healthy.  However, sometimes ordinary nuts won’t do.  When that is the case, all it takes is a few spices and the nuts of your choice and you have a party worthy munchie in no time.

This recipe comes from the always reliable Washington Post food section.  You can use any nut of your choice, either alone or in a combination.  I had a generous stash of whole almonds and walnuts in the pantry so I used those.  Of course you can always omit the bacon but really…..why would you want to do that?

MAPLE-BACON SPICED NUTS

2 cups raw mixed nuts of your choice

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

4 slices uncooked bacon

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place a wire rack over a swath of paper towels.
  • Combine the nuts and egg white in a mixing bowl; toss to coat evenly.
  • Stir together the brown sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and ginger in a small bowl.
  • Add the spice mixture to the nuts and toss again to coat evenly.
  • Scrape the nuts onto the baking sheet, spreading them into a single layer.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring to break up any clumps, until the nuts are lightly toasted.
  • Use a spatula to transfer the nuts to a plate and allow to cool.
  • Brush the bacon slices on both sides with the maple syrup and arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, turning them over once until crisp on both sides.
  • Transfer the bacon to the wire rack to drain and cool then break the strips into small pieces.
  • Place the cooled nuts in a serving dish then add the bacon and toss to incorporate just before serving.

Farfalle w/ Squash & Red Peppers

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Pasta is the ultimate in fast dinners but ordinary pasta and tomato sauce grows old fast.  This recipe, from the always reliable food section of the Washington Post combines your expected tomatoes with the red peppers and the totally unexpected winter squash and cinnamon (yes cinnamon) for a surprising flavor combination that totally works.  It is rich and satisfying and if your family is like mine, it allows me to sneak in extra vegetables without drawing attention to them.  Its a sure win for an end of the week dinner.

FARFALLE w/ SQUASH & RED PEPPERS

Sea salt

1 pound farfalle pasta (or a small shape of your choice)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced

1 pound acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

15 ounces canned diced tomatoes, plus their juices

1 cup toasted walnut pieces

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, leave the farfalle slightly undercooked.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  • Meanwhile, pour the oil into a large saucepan set over medium-low heat.  Add the onion, garlic, crushed pepper flakes, and cinnamon, stirring to coat.  Cover and cook until the onion and garlic have softened, about  minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium; add the bell peppers, squash, tomatoes, and their juices.  Cover and cook until the peppers and squash are tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and season with salt to taste.
  • Toss the pasta into the vegetables, along with as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create a sauce.  Stir to coat.
  • Divide among individual bowls and top with the toasted walnuts.

Serves 6

Persimmon Pudding Cake

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Persimmons are a fruit that is always mystified me.  People seem to either love or hate these fleshy fall fruits that have been compared to both apples and tomatoes.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with these intriguing fruits you can learn more here and here.  I’m on the fence about them; I’ve tasted ones I’ve really enjoyed and I’ve had some where I’ve stopped eating after the first bite.  Persimmons come in two varieties, the firmer ones and the softer ones and I definitely prefer the latter.

Persimmons are plentiful in Albanian markets this time of year and I was determined to cook with them before we leave the country.  Surprisingly, recipe searches of my favorite cooking sites yielded lots of salads and a few unappetizing desserts but not much else.  Then I came across this cake recipe from Simply Recipes.  It looked both appetizing to eat and easy to make so I decided to give it a try.  And I am so glad I did because I love it.  It tastes like a moist gingerbread with the persimmons and walnuts adding interest in texture.  You could also make this with an equal amount of grated pears or apples if persimmons aren’t available but it won’t turn out as moist.  So find some persimmons at your local market before they disappear for the season and give this cake a try.  You won’t be disappointed.

PERSIMMON PUDDING CAKE

2 cups persimmon pulp

4 eggs

1/2 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon all spice

1 cup chopped walnuts

  • Preheat the oven to 400.  Lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan and set it aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix the persimmon pulp, eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, one-third at a time, fully incorporating after each addition.
  • Fold in the chopped walnuts.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, approximately 50 minutes.

Serves 8

Maple Walnut Pie

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In preparation for Thanksgiving, I’m showcasing some of my favorite holiday recipes this month.  Some of them are family recipes while others are my own creations but each of them always has a place on my dining room table.  This fall I had the opportunity to be profiled by Albanian Living magazine as a part of their “traditional American Thanksgiving” article.  All of the recipes I’m sharing were a part of that Thanksgiving table.

For the longest time I avoided making pies since I struggled with the crusts.  Mine were always tough and chewy and not tender and flakey the way good ones should be.  I’ve learned that temperature and weather are vital to making a good crust.  Humid weather and room temperature butter are a pie crust’s worst enemy since warmth and moisture make for a soggy crust.  But autumn brings cooler and dryer weather so this is the perfect season for pie making.  And by keeping the crust a simple concoction of flour and butter with just a bit of liquid, you are ensured a perfectly flaky crust.

This pie is a favorite from my youth.  Growing up in New England, I don’t remember eating pecan pie at Thanksgiving, but no holiday table would have been complete without this walnut pie.  The maple syrup makes this a truly New England dessert so be sure to use the best quality syrup you can find.  And by no means should you substitute pancake syrup or another maple flavored syrup; the results will just not be the same.  It comes from The Moosewood Cookbook  and is a snap to make so be sure to include it on your holiday menu this year.

MAPLE WALNUT PIE

For the crust:

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons cold buttermilk or water

  • Using a pastry cutter, two forks, or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, cut together the butter and flour until the mixture is uniformly blended and resembles coarse cornmeal.
  • In half tablespoon increments, add the buttermilk or water and stir, cut, or process until the dough just holds together.  You might not need to use all of the liquid.
  • Divide the dough in half and cover and set one half aside.
  • Place the piece of dough between two sheets of waxed or parchment paper.  Using a rolling pin roll and stretch the dough to fit the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.
  • Carefully remove on piece of the paper and fit the dough into the pie plate.  Press it into the edges making sure the crust continues up the side of the pie plate.  Crimp the edges in a decorative design with a fork.  Set aside.

For the pie:

4 eggs

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 Teaspoon salt

2 cups chopped walnuts

  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Beat together all of the ingredients except for the walnuts, until light and frothy.
  • Spread the walnuts over the bottom of the reserved pie shell.  Pour in the batter.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the custard is solid in the center.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  • Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold with or without whipped cream.

Serves 6-8

Apple Pie

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In preparation for Thanksgiving, I’m showcasing some of my favorite holiday recipes this month.  Some of them are family recipes while others are my own creations but each of them always has a place on my dining room table.  This fall I had the opportunity to be profiled by Albanian Living magazine as a part of their “traditional American Thanksgiving” article.  All of the recipes I’m sharing were a part of that Thanksgiving table.

Who doesn’t love a good apple pie?  The combination of apples and cinnamon make for the perfect fall dessert.  Growing up this pie was always a part of our Thanksgiving dessert table. Following in New England traditional, it was served with thick slices of Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar Cheese but you can also serve it with vanilla ice cream or even a lightly sweetened whipped cream.  I like the pie best when it is slightly warm (just put it in to still warm oven while you are eating dinner and it will be just the right temperature when it is time for dessert).

Of course, apple pie isn’t the only pie on our Thanksgiving dessert table.  Pumpkin pie served with fresh whipped cream is another must have Thanksgiving dessert!

APPLE PIE

For the crust:

12 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

3 cups all-purpose flour

8 tablespoons cold buttermilk or water

  • Using a pastry cutter, two forks, or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, cut together the butter and flour until the mixture is uniformly blended and resembles coarse cornmeal.
  • In half tablespoon increments, add the buttermilk or water and stir, cut, or process until the dough just holds together.  You might not need to use all of the liquid.
  • Divide the dough in half and cover and set one half aside.
  • Place the piece of dough between two sheets of waxed or parchment paper.  Using a rolling pin roll and stretch the dough to fit the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.
  • Carefully remove on piece of the paper and fit the dough into the pie plate.  Press it into the edges.
  • Repeat the process with the reserved dough but instead of placing it on the pie plate cover and set it aside along with the prepared dough in the refrigerator until ready to proceed.

For the pie:

6 cups mixed apples, peeled, cored, and diced into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoon sanding sugar or other coarse sugar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

  • Place the apples in prepared pie crust.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice over the top of the apples being careful not to let any seeds fall into the pie.
  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, walnuts, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Toss to combine.
  • Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the top of the apples.
  • Carefully place the remaining pie crust over the apples.
  • Trim the edges of the crust if necessary and crimp the top and bottom crusts together.  You can use a fork or even your fingers to form a neat and pretty edge.
  • Score the top of the crust with a knife to allow steam to escape. If you have any scrap pieces of dough you can use them to create a decorative top.
  • Brush the milk over the top of the crust and sprinkle with the sugar.
  • Place the pie in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Without opening the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes or until the crust is brown and the juices are bubbling.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  You can serve the pie either warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, a sharp Cheddar cheese, or whipped cream.

Serves 8

Apple Spice Cake

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With fall just around the corner, my thoughts turn to baking.  The temperatures have cooled down and it  is now safe to turn on the oven.  Apples are the quintessential fall fruit and nothing is more comforting than a moist apple cake.  This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour.  The abundance of apples means the cake is moist and has a true apple flavor.  Kids of all ages love this cake and I’ve discovered that it is a hit a bake sales.  If you are serving the cake to people with nut allergies, you can omit the walnuts.  The original recipe calls for the cake to be topped with a brown sugar frosting.  I find this to be too sweet so use a simple dusting of confectioner’s sugar to complete the bars.

APPLE SPICE CAKE

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 2/3 cups white sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

4 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 cup toasted walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

  • Preheat the oven to 325.  Liberally coat a 9″ x 13″ pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • Mix all of the ingredients except the apples, walnuts, and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl.
  • Beat until well combined.  The mixture will be very stiff and may even be crumbly.
  • Add the apples and walnuts and mix until the apples release some of their juice and the stiff mixture becomes a thick batter.
  • Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing it with a rubber spatula.
  • Bake the cake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool completely.
  • Once the cake has cooled completely, cut into 24 even squares.
  • Dust with the confectioner’s sugar and serve.

Yields:  24 pieces

Fresh Ricotta with Vanilla Infused Honey & Walnuts

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Recently I jumped on the “make it from scratch” bandwagon and started making my own ricotta cheese.  When I first set out to try making my first batch of homemade cheese I conjured up images of my own mother stirring vats of hot milk during her own cheese making phase.  I wasn’t sure I was up for the task but quickly found that by using a DIY kit from Williams Sonoma, the entire process was so simple it now feels foolish to buy the cheese in the store.  Since it is the main ingredient, it is important to use a good quality milk.  If you don’t like the taste of the milk when you drink it, you won’t like the way the your end product tastes. Here in Albania I like the whole organic milk from Natyral Farms but any non-ultra pasteurized milk will work.

Of course, once you have your own cheese you need to find ways to use it.  I’ve substituted ricotta in my traditional cheesecake, made ricotta pancakes, and even eaten it plain.  When I was looking for a more interesting use for the cheese, and a fancier presentation for an appetizer,  I found inspiration in The Cheese Course by Janet Fletcher.  This book is filled with interesting and innovative recipes using all types of cheese and brings together flavor combinations I would not have otherwise considered.  (It also makes me a bit sad since so many of the wonderful cheeses mentioned in the book simply aren’t available here).  This combination of ricotta, honey, and walnuts makes for an attractive presentation whose flavor combinations take guests by surprise.  I served my cheese as a single dish on a buffet table but the cheese could easily be divided onto individual plates and served as a first course.

FRESH RICOTTA CHEESE (courtesy of Williams Sonoma)

1/2 cup cool, distilled water

1 teaspoon citric acid

1 gallon whole milk

1 teaspoon cheese salt, or to taste

Pour the water into a small bowl  and stir in the citric acid.

Pour the milk into a large pot, add the citric acid solution and cheese salt and stir well.

FRESH RICOTTA WITH VANILLA INFUSED HONEY & WALNUTS

1/2 cup honey

1 vanilla bean

3/4 cup whole toasted walnuts

2 cups fresh ricotta

  • Place the honey in a small saucepan.
  • Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the honey.  Stir to combine.
  • Heat the honey mixture of over medium-low heat until the mixture is syrupy.
  • Meanwhile, shape the ricotta onto a serving platter, or four individual plates, and shape into a small mound.
  • Immediately before serving add the walnuts to the honey mixture and gently stir to combine making sure the nuts are well coated.
  • Pour the honey nut mixture over the ricotta and serve immediately.
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