Friday, November 27, 2009


Daring Bakers November Challenge: Cannoli

     Inside out pie, that's what a cannoli is.  A light crispy shell filled with a sweet creamy filling, bursting apart in your mouth. One of the most perfect desserts.
     The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of  Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives . She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book. If you want her recipe just drop on over to her blog.  Thank You Lisa for picking such a delicious challenge.

This challenge was the perfect way to start  our holiday baking.  Cannoli are a special treat our family makes  only during the Christmas season.  Cannoli making is a great group activity.  Many of the Italian families I know have cannoli making parties.  All of the Aunts gather together and make dozens of cannoli shells.   The recipe that I used is one that had been given to me many years ago  at one such party.  It yields perfectly sweet,  and crispy cannoli shells.

Cannoli Shells
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 Tablespoons cold butter cut in small pieces
about 1/4 cup Sauterne
1 egg white, slightly beaten.
Oil for frying
Ricotta cheese filling
Blend flour with salt and sugar in a bowl.  Make a well in the center; add egg and butter to well.  Stir with a fork, working from the center out to moisten flour mixture.  Add wine 1 tablespoon at a time until dough begins to cling together. Use your hands to from dough into a ball.  Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Using a pasta machine roll dough to 1/16 inch thick. I go to the 5th of six settings on my Atlas pasta machine. Cut dough into 3 inch circles, with a rolling pin roll circles into ovals. Wrap each oval around cannoli tubes; seal edge with egg white.

Fry in hot oil until golden brown.  Cool and fill just before serving.

Ricotta Filling:
 1 lb ricotta cheese
1 /12 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup whipping cream whipped

Whirl ricotta cheese in food processor until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla, fold in whipped cream. Cover and chill for several hours.
If you like stir in:
1/4 cup finely chopped chocolate
1/4 cup each finely chopped candied citron and candied orange peel.
 Fill cannoli shells just prior to eating, do not pre fill or the shells will loose their crispness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TWD: Holiday Bundt Cake

The last TWD recipe for November is the All in One Holiday Bundt Cake, picked by Britin of The NittyBritty. This easy cake was a big success at our house. Every bite was full of the flavors of fall-apples, pumpkin, tart cranberries, crunchy pecans, and the cinnamon powdered sugar glaze has become a new family favorite. Paired with a mug of warm mulled cider, this was the perfect fall dessert.
If you want to make this delicious holiday cake jump on over to The Nitty Britty or get yourself a copy of Dorie's book.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Steamed Persimmon Pudding with Cinnamon Creme Anglaise

Steamed Persimmon Pudding with Cinnamon Creme Anglaise

Persimmon are an interesting fruit. They have a unique flavor and can be used in a variety of recipes, from sweet to savory. The puree of ripe persimmons has the consistency of pureed bananas, but a flavor reminiscent of dates, and the most beautiful, intense, orange color. When I was a little girl my grandfather had a persimmon tree and I remember helping my mom make a persimmon fruit cake. Although fruit cake makes most people wrinkle their nose, this one was dense, dark, rich,  moist and very delicious. I'm not sure what happened to my mom's recipe, so when I was recently given persimmons by my neighbor, I was on my own. I found this recipe in the November 2009 Bon Appetit. I hadn't made a steamed pudding before, and now seemed like the time to give it a try. This "pudding" is really a moist cake with delicate flavors, nice crumb and beautiful color.  Creme Anglaise is the perfect accompaniment, adding a touch of cinnamon without disguising the persimmon flavor. Of course a dollop of whipped cream wouldn't hurt either.

Persimmon Pudding
adapted from Bon Appetit November 2009

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh persimmon pulp
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup apricot preserves ( I omitted this step)
Cinnamon Creme Anglaise

Butter and flour one 8 cup metal pudding mold with center tube and lid, than spray mold and lid with nonstick spray. Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Place a rack in bottom of deep pot large enough to hold the pudding mold. Whisk the first six ingredients in a bowl. Using and electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and beat until blended. Beat in persimmon puree and lemon juice.
Spoon batter into pudding mold. cover with lid.( I didn't have a lid so I used heavy duty tin foil as a cover and a large rubber band to hold it in place.)
Place pudding mold on rack in pot. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of mold. Return water to boil, cover pot, then reduce heat and simmer until top of pudding feels firm to touch and tester inserted near center comes out clean, adding more simmering water to pot to maintain water level, about 2 hours.
Remove mold from pot. Uncover pudding; let cool. Invert onto plate.
(I omitted this step) Bring apricot preserves to simmer in small sauce pan. Strain through fine strainer set over bowl. Using a pastry brush spread preserves over outside of pudding.

Cinnamon Creme Anglaise

2 cups whole milk
1 3-4 inch cinnamon stick
6 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt

Combine milk and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat bring to a simmer . Remove form heat; cover and let seep 1 hour.
Whisk egg yolks, sugar and salt in medium bowl. Return milk mixture to a simmer. Gradually whisk milk mixture into yolks mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until sauce thickens and instant read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 165 degrees F., about 3 minutes, do not boil.
Remove from heat. Strain through sieve into small bowl; cool. Cover: chill until cold.

Serve pudding at room temperature with Cinnamon Creme Anglaise

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TWD: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

Pamela of Cookies with Boys decided on Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies (you can find them on pages 76 and 77 of Dorie's book).  Throughout the years I have tried several variations of molasses cookies, from soft and chewy to hard and crunchy, and I have to say these turned out to be pretty darn good. The cookies  were crisp, sweet and spicy. A little zip was provided by the ginger and black pepper while the sweetness of the molasses gave these cookies a really well-rounded flavor.

After school, this crispy cookie is just right for dunking in a glass of ice cold milk.  If you have any left by dessert time, they also make fabulous ice cream sandwiches. Combined with sweet vanilla ice cream the spices from the cookies really shined, and the cookies were perfectly crunchy on the top and bottom. These cookies were also super easy to make and used ingredients I almost always have, so I know I will be making them again soon!

Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies
Dorie Greenspan
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch cracked or coarsely ground black pepper3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and pepper.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat for 2 minutes or so to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour and spices disappear. If some flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, to avoid over-beating the dough, mix in the last of the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula. You'll have a smooth, very soft dough.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Freeze for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
 Put the sugar in a small bowl.

Working with one packet of dough at a time, divide it into 12 pieces, and roll each piece into a smooth ball between your palms. One by one, roll the balls around in the bowl of sugar , then place them on one of the baking sheets. Dip the bottom of a glass into the sugar and use it to press down on the cookies until they are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the tops feel set to the touch. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, if the cookies have spread and are touching, use the edge of a metal spatula to separate them while they are still hot.

Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
 Yield: about 24 fairly large cookies (I got a few more)

Storage: The cookies will keep for at least 1 week in the cookie jar. Wrapped airtight, they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Thanks Pam for picking such a winner.  If you want to make these cookies  you'll find the recipe at  Cookies with Boys .

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Avocado Cupcakes

    Here in Southern California we are spoiled with great weather, sandy beaches, and excellent avocados. However, you can only make guacamole so many times. With a pile of avocados on my counter, I had to think of a way to use them that didn't involve garlic and onions.
    If pepper and pears sound like a strange combination, how about avocado in a cupcake? I can promise you it is equally delicious. The cupcakes are dense, moist, subtly spiced, and not too sweet. The avocado gives a richness hard to find in many cake recipes, but doesn't add an overwhelming flavor. Because they are plain, these cupcakes lend themselves well to experimenting with additions-you can try nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruits, or different combinations of spices. Unfrosted, these make great muffins for a morning treat, but a lemon cream cheese frosting adds the perfect citrusy touch to these fun cupcakes.

Avocado Cupcakes

15 Servings

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon each: nutmeg, cinnamon,cloves, and allspice
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, x large
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup avocados, mashed (about 3 medium avocados)

In a bowl mix together all dry ingredients, set aside.
Cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add lemon juice, avocado and milk; mix until thick and creamy.Add dry ingredients mix well. Spoon batter into muffin cup filling about 3/4 full. Bake @350 for 15-20 minutes. It can also be baked as a 9x13 cake, but increase the baking time to approximately 30 minutes. Frost with lemon cream cheese frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 oz butter
3 oz cream cheese
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
Juice and zest of one lemon.

With mixer beat  confectioners sugar and butter until crumbly. Add lemon zest and juice.   Beat in cream cheese 1 ounce at a time, continue beating until smooth and fluffy.

printable recipe

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Cran-Apple Crisps

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisps

 Em of The Repressed Pastry chef selected Cran-Apple Crisps for one of the November recipes. This was the perfect autumn dessert- sweet juicy apples paired with tart and tangy cranberries, covered in a crispy brown sugar oatmeal topping. You can add black berries, pears, dates, or invent your own yummy combination. Use your imagination with this one since apples lend themselves to pairing well with so many different things. As an added bonus, your house will smell terrific as this is baking, making it even harder to resist digging in!

Cran-Apple Crisps
Baking From My Home To Yours – Dorie Greenspan

For the topping
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
For the filling
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch chunks
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen, don’t thaw)
½ cup moist, plump dried cranberries or raisins (dark or golden)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter eight ovenproof cups or bowls, each with a capacity of about one cup. Pu the cups on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

To make the topping:
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms big curds, about 1 minute. (You can make the topping up to 3 days ahead and refrigerate it in an airtight bag.)

To make the filling:
Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Divide the fruit evenly among the cups then spoon an equal amount of topping over each portion of fruit. Bake the crisps for 40-45 minutes or until the topping is golden and the fruit juices are bubbling up around it. Transfer the cups to a rack and let them rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

This would be a perfect addition to the Thanksgiving table, or for any time you want a fast and delicious dessert. Thanks Em for picking this easy and great tasting crisp.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Pear Pepper Pie

Yesterday was Mimi Jr.'s birthday. For her birthday dessert she picked pear pepper pie. Now, pears and pepper may seem an odd combination, but let me tell you, it is sublime. The subtle spice from the pepper heightens the sweetness of the pears, and the pears in turn temper the pepper's heat. As a result, you get spicy-sweet, perfectly cooked pears in every bite. I have been baking this pie for over twenty years and everyone asks for the recipe, but no one has ever correctly guessed the mystery ingredient.

Pear Pepper Pie
From the Best of Sunset

Pastry crust for double pie (recipe follows)
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
¼ teaspoon white pepper
about 8 firm ripe pears such as Bosc, d’Anjou or Comice
1 egg lightly beaten
¼ cup whipping cream

In a bowl mix sugar, tapioca and pepper. In to another large bowl, peel, core, and thinly slice pears to make 8 cups. Combine with sugar mixture, set aside.

Roll half pastry 1/8 inch thick and fit into a 9 inch pie pan; trim excess from edges. Pour in pear mixture. Roll remaining pastry into 1/8 inch thick round; place over pears. Fold top pastry under bottom pastry. Flute edges. Slash top in a few places to allow steam to escape; brush with beaten egg. Bake at 400 degree oven until bubbly, about 1 hour.

When done remove pie from oven. Cut a 3 inch hole in center of top crust; lift out the pastry and slowly pour in cream, lifting pears slightly with a knife so cream seeps in. Replace pastry and let pie cool in pan on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
printable recipe

adapted from Julia Child- Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol.1

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces)  all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, cut into small bits
1/2 cup cold water +/-

1. Process flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined. Add butter and shortening, and pulse until pieces of butter are about the size of peas, 3 to 5 quick pulses. Redsitribute mixture evenly in processor.

2. Sprinkle water over flour and butter mixture. Pulse mixture a couple of times until mixture starts to from a ball.  Dump contents of food process on a lightly flour board and press the dough firmly into a ball. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Uncooked pastry dough will keep for 3 to 4 days under refrigeration, or it may be frozen for several weeks.
  printable recipe

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Smoked Sausage, Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Soup

Smoked Sausage, Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Soup

     As a group, my family has chosen to ban winter squash from our kitchen. I don't know if it's the taste, texture or a combination, but they pretty much avoid most orange colored vegetables. For the most part, however, they are adventurous eaters and I was able to coax them into trying this soup. After that first hesitant bite, they were hooked; I now hear pleas for it rather than protests.
     Though an unusual sounding soup, it is an absolutely delicious dish. The combination of a silky squash puree with pieces of corn, smoked sausage and nutty wild rice join together flawlessly for a warm, intensely flavorful, and satisfying meal.

Smoked Sausage, Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Soup
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

2 medium butternut squash, about 3-4 pounds, peeled seed and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
12 cups chicken stock
2 ½ cups chopped onions
1 cup wild rice
¾ pounds kielbasa or other smoked sausage cut into ¼ inch pieces
2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 ½ cups half and half
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degree F

Season the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 45minutes to 1 hour or until tender. Remove from the oven and cool completely. In a saucepan, over medium heat, bring 4 cups of stock and ½ cup chopped onions to a simmer. Stir in rice and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally with a fork. Remove from pan and cool.

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, add remaining oil. When the oil is hot, add the sausage and brown for 3 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of chopped onions and corn. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes.

Puree cooked squash with about 3 cups of stock, until smooth. Add to the Dutch oven along remaining stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the half-and-half, check seasoning and serve.

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