Monday, November 23, 2009

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is such a classic dessert that is usually so poorly made these days. It is a humble pie with very simple flavors and when you have simplicity like this, it is important for the quality of the ingredients to be really good, allowing the wonderful flavors in this delicious pie to come through.

I've noticed that a lot of pecan pies are made using corn syrup, which I really don't like. I don't think it does anything to help the beautiful flavors or aromas that a pecan pie should have and you are left with something quite sickly.
Maple pecan pies can be really good and I would always choose maple syrup over corn syrup of course. I didn't want to use maple for this pie as I was aiming for a great classic pecan pie.

There are a few twists in this recipe, I did everything I could to achieve a classically tasting pecan pie using good ingredients.
It's not too horribly sweet or overwhelming allowing the pecans to dominate the flavors.

I really loved the way the pie filling came out, it was exactly what I was hoping for. Not too horribly sweet or overwhelming. You can pick out a lot of the individual flavors in each bite along with the lovely pecan flavors. This pie just melts in your mouth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pecan Pie:

Makes one 9" pie

  • 1 cup halved pecans
  • 3 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (good quality)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated dark chocolate ( I used Valrhona 85%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 350F

Toast the pecan half's on a baking sheet for 7 minutes

Set aside to cool

Set the oven to 400F.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and brown sugar.

Add the golden syrup, molasses and vanilla extract and begin to whisk.

Whisk in the eggs and milk.

Then add the orange zest, grated chocolate, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and all-purpose flour.

Whisk very well to combine and then add the toasted pecans.

Pour the mixture into the par-baked pie crust.

Bake in the oven at 400F for 5 minutes then turn it down to 325F and bake for 45-50 minutes.

The pie should still jiggle slightly but a knife should come out clean when pierced.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

The plan for this week's post was to make traditional Italian biscotti, but after finding that I had no anise flavoring, I decided to make chocolate biscotti and make the traditional one another time. 

I always thought that the best chocolate biscotti I ever had was the one from Meredith's Bread at the NY farmers' markets, but while their biscotti is still fantastic, I really do think this Amy's Bread recipe beats it.

The recipe Is actually chocolate and hazelnut, and I know I have a habit of replacing hazelnuts in a lot of things. It's not that I hate them, I'm just not a huge fan of them and would always prefer walnuts or almonds, especially in biscotti. 

I'm just going to go ahead and say that I think it's pretty much impossible to get a better chocolate biscotti than this. I'm amazed at the perfection of this recipe.

These indulgent biscotti have just the right amount of sweetness and are beautifully studded with bits of chocolate and nuts. They would be a perfect accompaniment to the end of a Christmas or Thanksgiving meal with coffee as they are not overwhelmingly rich but hit the spot when in need of something sweet and chocolatey.

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti: (makes 24)
Adapted from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread. (Recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti)

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (use a really good one)
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups hazelnuts, toasted (I substituted these for Walnuts)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg for egg wash

Pre-heat oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using an electric whisk.

Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until fluffy and pale (1 min).

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, coffee powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Fold this in to combine.

Then fold in the toasted nuts and chocolate chips.

Divide the dough in half and turn each one out onto a floured surface and roll each half into a log and patting down slightly to form the dough to approximately 2 inches wide by 14 inches long by 1 1/2 inches high.

Place each log on to the prepared baking sheet several inches apart.

In a small bowl mix an egg and then brush the egg wash lightly over the top of the logs.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 27 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through.

Remove from the oven and turn the oven down to 300F.

Allow the logs to cool for about 20 minutes before slicing them at an angle to about 3/4-inch-thick pieces.

Lay each slice back on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper leaving at least 1/2 inch of space between each.

Bake them at 300F for 5 minutes and then flip each biscotti piece over and bake on the other side for 5 minutes again.

Remove them from the oven and allow to cool fully.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nutmeg Cookies with White Chocolate

I know I haven't been posting as much as I really wanted to so far this autumn; I have so many things I want to put up before it becomes winter and I change from fall/harvest mode into Christmas mode.

I managed to catch a cold twice since the weather changed and I haven't felt up to baking much (sneezing and baking aren't really a great match), so I've been quite slow and the poor bowl of mush has been feeling quite thin lately.

On the bright side though, I'm feeling much better and I'm ready for some serious fall treats. There are so many things to celebrate this season

I think these cookies are now my favorite kind of chocolate chip cookies. I like them around this time of year, although to be frank, you could eat these year round. The nutmeg is very present in the flavor, but these are not deeply spiced cookies, so it's not an overwhelming flavor. I just love the white chocolate with the nutmeg; they really compliment each other. The addition of treacle is purely to add an amount of depth to the flavor. You could always use molasses for that, but I absolutely love treacle.

Nutmeg Cookies with White Chocolate:
(makes approx 15)
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 2 pinches of ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon black treacle
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

In a larger bowl beat the brown sugar and butter together with an electric whisk until fluffy.

Add the egg, golden syrup and treacle and beat together until it is completely smooth and not curdled looking.

Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and beat together until completely incorporated.

Add the white chocolate chips and fold to combine.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease lightly with oil.

Pour the granulated white sugar onto a plate.

Take pieces of the dough and roll into 2 inch balls and then roll the balls in the plate of sugar until coated.

Place each of the balls of dough about 2-3 inches apart on the baking tray. 
(You will need to bake these in 2 batches, or line 2 baking trays)

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the cookies have spread and are just beginning to brown.

Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks.

I photographed these cookies as soon as they cooled so they are quite light in color, but they do gradually become darker and more brown looking, especially the next day.

The flavors also infuse overnight so these cookies just get better and better by the day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cranberry Bread

I love how festive cranberry bread looks with its beautiful red color piercing through. I feel that the inclusion of cranberries in any kind of baked good confers instant Christmassiness.

The cranberries add a wonderful tartness to the sweet orangey bread and the walnuts finish the flavors off beautifully with their nutty bite.

The way the aromas synthesize in this bread when baking is unlike anything else. It produces this heavenly seasonal scent that makes us sure that the holidays are upon us and almost brings a cheerful light into the darkness of winter.

My beautiful mother in law (to be) always makes cranberry bread for the holidays and this is the recipe that she likes to use. It was an introduction to cranberry bread for me having never tried it before and since then I have tasted a number of recipes but always come back to this one. It has always been the best cranberry bread I've ever tasted.

Make two loaves because I promise you one loaf won't last you a minute! 

Cranberry Bread: (makes 1 loaf)
(Adapted from Ocean Spray's Classic Cranberry Nut Bread)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter (softened) or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1 egg well beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (my addition to the recipe)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. 

Chop the Cranberries and walnuts and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Stir in the orange juice, orange peel, egg and butter.

Then fold in the chopped cranberries and walnuts.

Spread the mixture evenly in the greased loaf pan and bake in the oven at 350F for 55 minutes.

Allow to cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes.

I like to slice this after a couple of hours (If I can resist) it definitely needs that time to set for neat slices.

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