Category: filling

Linzer tart cupcakes.

Ohhh, Valentine’s Day is here. Time for hearts. Hearts everywhere. Heart-shaped everything! And of course, here that includes… cupcakes.

I go batty for holidays ’round these here parts, in case you didn’t know notice.

These particular little cupcakes are inspired by Linzer tarts, or Linzer tortes. In America, you low them as the cookies with a hole cut out of the top piece… its filled with a red or pink colored jam or jelly and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. However in Austria those are considered Linzer sablés (Linzer Augen or “linzer eyes”). They’re also a riff on the cupcakes I posted last year; which were chocolate cupcakes filled with pink frosting, all in a heart-shape.

Linzer tart cupcakes for Valentine's Day.

There are a few ways of doing this neat little heart-shaped hole trick, but I just use the method I find easiest: I push the cutter down into the middle of the completely cooled (preferably refrigerated for a few hours) cupcake. After some wiggling, the heart-shaped piece should pop out when you remove the cookie cutter. Another way: cut the top of the cupcake off, add a layer of jam, then cut the hole out of the top and stick it back on.

Linzer tart cupcakes filled with strawberry jam.

Whatever way you choose, the end result is adorable. And sweet.

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Eating this True Blood cake did not suck.

This Sunday, June 16th, at 9 o’clock p.m. EST on HBO, season 6 of True Blood will premiere. I know all you “Trubies” are going bananas. As they say, “waiting sucks.” And I absolutely agree: it does totally suck to have to wait so long for a new season. But …while you all were waiting patiently (or not so) for the new season, I had this baby to keep me company. The True Blood cookbook! 

True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

It’s a delicious book- filled with beautiful photographs of scenes from the show and more. There are gorgeous shots of Gran’s kitchen & the outside of both her house & Bill’s house, as well as pictures of Merlotte’s and Fangtasia. The attention to detail is awesome; the picture of Gran’s kitchen makes you feel like you’re right there. Big, glossy, clear photos.

The food photography in and of itself is beautiful. Almost every recipe has an accompanying photo. And it’s not just food, or baked goods that are featured. There are cocktails & non-alcoholic drink recipes too…

An excerpt from True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

An excerpt from True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

A cake from the cookbook True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

So to celebrate the return of this beloved show, and all my favorite characters (Eric & Pam! Eric & Pam!)… I made me a True Blood Naked Cake. Also known (in the book) as “Totally Surprised Birthday Cake,” which is the stunning cake on the cover (and as seen above). My version of the cake is a “naked” cake; meaning it’s not fully frosted. The majority of the frosting is combined with the filling and put on top to create a naked effect.

A layer cake filled with lemon filling, vanilla frosting & a mixed berry topping inspired by and adapted from the True Blood cookbook.

In the book, the cake is fully frosted. But I wanted to make a naked cake for three reasons: one, I hate frosting cakes, two, it’s pretty. And three… ‘naked’ is kinda appropriate for True Blood. Lotsa people gettin’ all kinds of naked on that show!

A cake inspired by the cookbook True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps.

This cake is comprised of two cake layers, a lemon filling, a frosting similar to a 7-minute frosting or an Italian meringue buttercream and a rich berry topping; made of macerated raspberries & strawberries. It’s decadent, it’s drippy, it’s smooshy. It’s complex. It’s amazing. And you know what? I’m just gonna say it- it’s sexy. Kind of like the TV show itself. There’s so much going on you’re afraid you’ll miss something, but it all comes together perfectly.

I mean, come on. Look at this cake. It kinda makes you wanna do bad things.

A "naked" cake celebrating the return of True Blood season 6! Inspired by the True Blood cookbook, it's a two-layer vanilla cake filled with a lemon filling & vanilla frosting, then topped with more frosting & a mixed berry macerated topping.

Thick, creamy frosting.

Sunny, bright, slightly sticky lemon filling.

Moist & light vanilla cake.

And a bunch of juicy berries in sugar.

True Blood "naked" cake; vanilla cake filled with lemon filling, thick vanilla frosting & topped with a macerated raspberry & strawberry topping. From the True Blood cookbook!

Thick vanilla frosting, tart lemon filling & sweet macerated berries come together with vanilla cake to create this True Blood "Naked" cake; inspired by & taken from the True Blood cookbook!

Cake inspired by the True Blood cookbook!

Beautiful.

It’s the perfect cake to crack open a Tru Blood with, before you get down with some vampire action on those hot, humid summertime Sunday nights. And right about now you’re wondering where the recipe is. Well, I hate to do this to you… but…

If you want the recipe- you’re gonna have to buy the book!

 

I know, I know, I suck (pun intended!). You can buy True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. And be sure to watch the True Blood season 6 premiere on HBO this Sunday night, June 16th, at 9 p.m.

A vanilla layer cake filled with a bright, tart lemon filling, a thick vanilla frosting & topped with macerated raspberries & strawberries. Inspired by & adapted from the True Blood cookbook!

Don’t forget the cake! And remember, friends don’t let friends eat friends.

 

True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

“Sittin’ down to eat with the people you love, or even just like, life don’t get any better than that. Least not here in Bon Temps.”

- Sookie Stackhouse

(Pssst… I received absolutely no compensation for this post. I purchased the book myself, and any & all opinions are my own. I do not claim ownership of the True Blood logo, name or television show, nor do I claim to have any rights to any recipes in the book or anything to do with Charlaine Harris’ book series. For other desserts & eats that are True Blood inspired or could be used in relation to True Blood, check out my True Blood velvet cupcakes, blood spatter cupcakes, and True Blood orange cupcakes. Enjoy responsibly & keep your fangs in.)

Maple + pumpkin + bourbon = happiness!

Yeah, you read that right. Motherjumpin’ MAPLE PUMPKIN. And do you know what the maple & pumpkin have done with themselves in this particular instance? They’ve put themselves into little maple pumpkin pastries, or pasties. And yes- it looks as good as it sounds. And it’s all really easy!

See, it all started like this: I had a load of pumpkin in my freezer that I had to use up before Christmas kicks in & everything becomes peppermint-y and not so much pumpkin-y. But I was stumped. Cupcakes, been there done that. Bread? That, too. However, randomly, while looking for something else, I found something that gave me an idea: orange ramekins. I know, you’re thinking, “What do ramekins have to do with anything?” Well, see, I had forgotten all about them. I bought them last year and never used them. I shoved them in a cabinet and forgot all about ‘em. But when I saw them this year I immediately thought of pumpkins… and I was originally going to come up with a pumpkin spice pudding, or a pumpkin-y bread pudding. But then… to add to my excitement over having ideas again… I saw this.

How the hell was I supposed to ignore a recipe that has both pumpkin and maple in the title?

However, while custard tastes delicious, it doesn’t look all that delicious, especially pumpkin custard. Pumpkin custard resembles something wonky that babies do when sick. It tastes amazing, but does not photograph well; unless of course, you’re working for Bon Appétit & have professional lighting & backdrops & such at your disposal. I do not. I live in a house, not a photography studio. My life is not ruled by food photography. I do not have professional lights & reflectors set up just so my custard photographs well. So I made the custard, and it was eaten up super quickly, but the photos left a lot to be desired. And that’s when I decided to hell with it. I’m going back to an old standby- mini pies.

Or pasties.

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Are they an “old standby” at this point? I don’t know, but somewhere between my Nutella pop-tarts and my mini-apple pies, I came to love the portable pie. And it became a fall-back for me when regular pies hate me, or, apparently, when custard doesn’t look appetizing. I had all this pumpkin left & I didn’t want to do a pumpkin pie, ’cause that’s boring. So I made little pies. This time, though, they look more like pastries, or pasties, more so than miniature pies… so I’ll just dub them maple pumpkin pasties (Harry Potter, anyone?). You can call them mini pies, or pumpkin pop-tarts, or pumpkin littles, or whatever cutesy name you like. They’re pie crust, cut into circles, filled with a maple pumpkin filling, folded over, brushed with egg… and then baked. When done, they’re a hand-held heavenly little cluster of amazeballsness. Or a pasty.

And before you go off thinking I’m talking about those little items strippers use, get your minds out of the gutter:

A pasty (play /ˈpæsti/, Cornish: Hogen; Pasti), (sometimes known as a pastie or British pasty in the United States)[1] is a baked pastry associated in particular with Cornwall in Great Britain. It is made by placing uncooked filling on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular end-product.

The traditional Cornish pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe,[2] is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (also known as a yellow turnip or rutabaga – referred to in Cornwall as turnip) and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and is baked. Today, the pasty is the food most associated with Cornwall, it is regarded as the national dish, and it accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy. Pasties with many different fillings are made; some shops specialise in selling all sorts of pasties.

The origins of the pasty are unclear, though there are many references to them throughout historical documents and fiction. The pasty is now popular world-wide due to the spread of Cornish miners, and variations can be found in Australia, the United States, Mexico and elsewhere.

-Wikipedia

So a pasty is just like a hand-held pie. Cute, easy, convenient,  and so much better than a regular ol’ pumpkin pie, especially with the addition of maple. But you might be wondering where the bourbon comes in. That part is the perfect example of how I can’t leave well enough alone. I thought some bourbon whipped cream (thanks for the excellent idea, Tanglewood Baked Goods) would be amazing with this. And I was right. As usual (kidding). But seriously, the bourbon whipped cream really gives it something. It elevates it, makes it more grown-up.

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 MAPLE PUMPKIN PASTIES (adapted extremely generously from a recipe by Joy the Baker & from these)

Ingredients:

  • 1 double pie crust recipe of your choice; made, chilled, rolled out to 1/4″ thickness & ready to cut
  • 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • cinnamon sugar (just mix together 2 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon in a little bowl), optional (I didn’t do it)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. Prepare the filling: whisk together in a small saucepan the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and spices, then, on medium-low heat, heat the mixture just until it’s fragrant. Remove from the heat. Add the egg & flour, whisking quickly. Set aside in the fridge to cool.
  3. Cut your pie crust into whatever shapes you want. I used fairly large circles that I then folded over in half to create half moons/crescents. You can also do rectangles, or do squares and fold them over in half to make little triangles, or make smaller circles and use two to mimic a teeny pie (like thus). Do as thou wilt, just know the bigger the shape, the less pasties you’ll get.
  4. Make sure you poke holes or slice little cuts in the top half of the dough; meaning whether it’s folded over or it’s a separate piece of dough, it has to have airholes to release moisture, gases & heat. You don’t want these little ones bursting open in your oven after all your hard work. Assemble your pasties by spooning the filling in, sealing them, and creating a crust with a floured fork. DON’T OVER-FILL THEM! They most definitely will burst open if you do. I definitely got a little over-zealous & had a few messes to clean up.
  5.  Place them on the baking sheet, leaving some space in between. Let them breathe! If this takes you a while and you notice that the dough is getting super soft, chill the pasties you already have made until it’s time to bake them. It’ll help them keep their shape.
  6. Brush the pasties with either a whole egg beaten, or just egg white, to create a nice brown crust. sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with bourbon whipped cream.

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 I know, they’re so messy. I don’t even know why none of my mini-pies ever come out even. I just can’t do anything 100% perfect, it always looks a little off and uneven. As a matter of fact, I gave up measuring my dough with rulers & shit, because it just never works out! But whatever they look like, I don’t care, they taste good. Isn’t that what’s important, anyway? It isn’t important how perfect they look, or how beautifully they’re shaped. What matters is if they’re edible, delicious, and if people love eating them.

And that, my friends, is exactly the case with these.

You can use any size cookie cutter you want, or you can make a larger calzone-sized pasty by using a cereal bowl as your shape. It all depends on what you plan on doing with them or how you want to serve ‘em.

BOURBON WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons good quality bourbon

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or bourbon as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get bourbon butter!

You can also save the whipped cream overnight, but you’ll definitely have to re-whip it before you eat it again. It kind of re-softens and loses it’s whipped character the longer it sits. Remember- this is fresh whipped cream, not store-bought. There are no preservatives! It has to be re-whipped after it sits for any lengthy period of time. Also, just as an FYI- this would work with any liquor of the following: brandy, bourbon, whiskey, and vodka. Which wouldn’t really give it much of a flavor, unless you used flavored vodka. Which might be interesting.

Major thanks to both my orange ramekins & that maple pumpkin custard recipe (which really is delicious, and I highly recommend it) for inspiring me to create these. Maple & pumpkin, & bourbon. Nom nom. Although… I do think it might be time for me to make a full-size pie again. Soon.

And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s only 3 days away. Time is flying…

An apple pie a day…

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Apples are my favorite fruits ever. That might be another reason why I live for fall. I can’t get enough of apples- a cold apple right out of the refrigerator is awesome. Especially if it’s a juicy, crisp one. Macintosh, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Empire, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady… I love ‘em all. I don’t care for other fruits as much as I care for the apple. And I live in (or close enough to) the Big Apple, so how appropriate is that? New York is famous for it’s apples, actually. We’re not only the second largest apple-producing state in the country, but we grow some of the best you can get!

And so therefore it wouldn’t be this time of year without apple desserts. Apple strudel, caramel apple syrup, baked apples with sweet ricotta, apple dumplings, caramel apples, apple turnovers, apple muffins, apple cupcakes, apple cider donuts and apple pie.

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Apple pie is one of those classic desserts that, in my opinion, is best made by pie-people. You know who those people are, right? Pie-people? Tania is a pie-person. Her pies are always beautiful, with perfectly rolled, evenly baked crusts. I’m not a pie person (as is evidenced by my horrendous crust-rolling & uneven pies). I’m a cake-person. That’s not to say that pie-people can’t bake cakes or cake-people can’t bake pies… no, not at all. I can make a successful pie, and Tania can most certainly make a beautiful cake. It’s just for me personally, my specialty isn’t in the area of piedom. I can make ‘em, but they’re far from perfect. Yes, they taste delicious and most people don’t notice the imperfections I do. But are they going to win any prizes at a county fair?

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Hell to the no. But my mini-apple pies? They just might.

I love that they look like little shrunken mini versions of apple pies!

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See, I really, really wanted to make an apple pie this year, desperately. Despite my inherent lack of pie-making skills. I have this great vintage “apple pie” pie plate (above) that was my mom’s, and it’s super cute. It’s got a recipe for apple pie written right on the bottom! I’ve always loved it and wanted to use it, but I just felt like it wasn’t right to make anything but apple pie in it. So this year I decided I’d use it. And I bought a new pie bird (isn’t he adorable!?) just for that reason. I was going to get all old school and make a big ass apple pie with my little ceramic black bird in the middle in my vintage pie plate. But then I looked up some recipes, and I thought about it… and I decided no. I was going to go an alternate route. A more me route.

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‘Cause, like I said, I’m not really a pie-person, you know?

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But I am a hand-held pie person. I’m a Pop-Tart person. I like my desserts portable, easy to bring along with you. Cupcakes, brownies, cookies, you get my drift. So how about a mini pie? Better yet… how about a portable mini apple pie?

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And while I’m sure the hand-pie has been done a thousand times before, so has the pie itself. How many times have you seen an apple pie recipe on a blog? And how many variations are there? And… how many of them proclaim themselves the BEST? Lots, I’m willing to bet. And I’m betting you, yourself, have a pie recipe that you boast as being the best. And everyone is probably correct: pie is such a comforting, familial thing. Our family pie recipes are always going to be the best. They’re never totally new or completely original, but that’s what makes them fantastic. Pie is a concept as old as the concept of food itself, and has been incarnated in hundreds if not thousands of ways since the beginning of pie-creation.

Pie has graced our kitchens for thousands of years, and not just as a holiday treat. Pie once offered cooks a practical way to bake and store all kinds of perishable ingredients. Meat, game, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, and spices, along with more familiar fillings like berries, nuts, and custards, were mixed and matched in piecrusts that could be more than an inch thick. If fat was poured into a hole in the crust’s lid after baking, the contents could be preserved for months. Small, folded-over hand pies were given to travelers and field laborers, who kept them stashed safely in their pockets or rucksacks until mealtime—a messy-sounding practice, until you realize that the crusts were probably more like papier-mâché shells than the flaky delicacies we admire today.

America didn’t invent pie—ancient Egypt gets credit for that. We didn’t even come up with the most outrageous ones, a distinction that belongs to medieval Europe, where, for the delight of dinner guests, piecrusts were baked hollow in fanciful shapes, then filled with live birds or frogs that would burst out when the dish was cut into. “Four and 20 blackbirds…” isn’t just a nursery rhyme after all.

But America is the country that truly embraced pie. Over open hearths and in cast-iron stoves, New World cooks baked partridge pies, lobster pies, squirrel pies, macaroni pies, and quichelike fiddlehead-fern pies. They’d follow a meal of savory pie with a dessert of, say, buttermilk pie. Or raisin pie. Or gooey, molasses-rich shoofly pie. So ubiquitous was pie that a character in a 19th-century tale griped about sitting down to “pie 21 times a week.” And a British journalist visiting the United States in 1882 wrote, “Almost everything that I behold in this wonderful country bears traces of improvement and reform—everything except pie…. Men may come and men may go…but pie goes on forever.”

-Oprah.com: “The History of Pie”

So what’s one more hand-pie recipe out there, right?

MINI HAND-HELD APPLE PIES

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of double pie-crust dough OR one box frozen pie crust (defrosted according to package)
  • 3-4 apples, one kind or any combination you like, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces (about 1/2″- 1″)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice OR
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions:

  1. Prepare a baking sheet by covering it with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 375° degrees.
  2. Mix apples & lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir in the sugar, flour & spices until the apples are evenly covered. Set aside.
  3. Roll out the pastry crust and cut out your circles (or whatever shape you’re making), placing them on the baking sheet. Spoon a teaspoon or a teaspoon and a half of the mixture into the center of each circle.
  4. Cut out the same amount of circles from the dough, making an X in the middle of this batch. Brush the egg around the edges of the “bottom” circles (the ones on the baking sheet), and place the X circles on top. Gently press to seal the edges, then crimp them using a fork.
  5. Brush the tops of the pies with the egg, and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. After removing from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack. Pies are best when eaten warm or room temperature the day they’re made, but are quite decent the next day. Longer than that, I don’t know- mine were all gone!

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This one isn’t particularly groundbreaking or unique, it’s just a simple, straightforward apple hand-pie. You can spice it up a bit by adding some spiced rum or gold rum or even bourbon to the filling if that tickles you. You can also add a cream cheese-y cheesecake type filling to them along with the apple. You can add an icing or “glaze” on top, you can even cut out bits of dough to look like apples and “glue” them on top with the egg wash before baking. Cut them into a square shape and then cut out a jack-o-lantern face on the top dough layer. Fill it with a jam filling, a fresh fruit filling, a Nutella filling, a Shoo-fly pie filling, a pecan pie filling, or a canned pie filling. Make them pumpkin hand pies! Do whatever you want. That’s all up to you.

I prefer to use the whole egg to do an egg wash; I find it creates a more attractive & shiny golden brown color. But if you’d rather skip using the yolk, then you can.

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I’m just giving you the basic idea. Run with it.

Some people will be bossy about what kind of apples you should use. I won’t be. I’ve made this just as successfully with Red Delicious apples as well as Braeburn or Granny Smith. These aren’t real apple pies, they aren’t baked for an hour. So if you use a softer apple it won’t turn to mush like it would in a pie. The best pies are the ones made with things you enjoy eating… so if you like Fuji apples then use them! Don’t be concerned about how it’s going to turn out. Save the worries about whether or not the apples will be firm enough for the contestants on Master Chef. I guarantee no matter what you do, you’ll be fine with these. And yes- pears work well in this recipe too, with minimal adaptation.

Even Mr. Blackbird here enjoyed them… and his day off.

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While I didn’t make an actual pie… I did make many pies, and I still got to use the pie plate!

Shortcut tip: like I said in the recipe above, you can use frozen pie crusts for the dough. Just use a good quality one. Let them defrost or come to room temperature (according to directions on the box) and roll them out as needed to 1/4″ thick, then cut your circles, or whatever shapes you’re using, and go from there. If you do this you’ll cut a lot of time out of the creation of the pies, so it might be worth it to you. I don’t know about using frozen puff pastry, but I don’t see why not. I’d love to hear about it if that’s what you decided to use.

Sources & credits: Royal China by Jeannette “apple pie” pie plate; vintage, Norpro black pie bird.

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Blackberry jam cupcakes with lime.

A couple of months ago, I made some blackberry lime jam. And then (true to form), in all the summer hubbub, I genuinely forgot all about it. I say “true to form” because I do that a lot. I make something that I’m dying to use, and then I forget about it. Months later, I end up finding it in the cupboard and thinking, “OH CRAP!” But it’s okay, because isn’t that why we make shelf-stable jams & jellies? So we can use them months & months & months after we make them?

So the idea I had for the jam was originally a form of thumbprint cookies. But that fell by the wayside when I imagined vanilla cupcakes with a blackberry lime jam filling, topped with some vanilla-lime buttercream. I’ve been in a cupcake-y mood again lately, it seems. And this jam is really beautiful. Pardon my photography skills (and the possible overload of photos in this post), these shots were taken on my birthday gift, a.k.a. my new camera, so I’m still playing around with settings.

While I’m on the subject of cupcakes, I’d like to introduce you all to my new “blog adoptee” for lack of a better term. Meet Cathy, everyone! Her blog is new, it’s called Legalized Frostitution, and she’s asked me to help her navigate the sometimes stormy seas of the blog world. She joins the ranks of the lovely Amanda, my first blog adoptee whom I will love for always & forever stalk on Instagram. Cathy is awesome- she said some really sweet things about me (flattery will get you everywhere, take note *wink*) and you should all bookmark her blog or whatever it is you crazy kids do nowadays. Like Amanda, she’s about to realize I really have no idea what the hell I’m talking about; I just like to read my own writing & take pretty pictures. Heh. Welcome to the fold, Cathy. I wish you much blogging success!

Anyway, I adapted a cupcake recipe to make about a half-dozen (it made 8, actually) so I didn’t have a surplus of cupcakes. Plus, I didn’t want to use up ALL the jam. I was originally going to swirl the jam into the batter, but then I ended up just “filling” the batter with a teaspoon/teaspoon and a half of jam. You can’t see it from the outside, but it’s there. You could swirl it if you wanted to create a nice visual effect (or if you’re not using frosting), but I figured the frosting would just cover it so it was a waste.

Anyway, because the recipe is quartered, you can double/triple/quadruple it with excellent results.

BLACKBERRY JAM CUPCAKES WITH LIME

Makes about 6-8 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used Rodelle, my new favorite)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • Blackberry lime jam

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into large bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and oil in a separate medium bowl. Add eggs; blend.
  3. Whisk in buttermilk, milk, & vanilla extract. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just to blend.
  4. Divide batter among liners, adding about 2-3 teaspoons of batter, then 1-2 teaspoons of jam, then 2-3 more teaspoons of batter on top.
  5. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks; cool.

VANILLA-LIME BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening (preferably Crisco)
  • 1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • the zest of one lime; half finely grated, half left on the larger side (for topping)

Directions:

  1. Beat butter & shortening until light and fluffy.
  2. With mixer on low speed, gradually add powdered sugar. Add milk & vanilla and mix until very smooth. Adjust depending on preference- add more sugar to thicken, more milk to soften.
  3. Add the finely grated lime zest, beat until incorporated. Frost cupcakes & top with the rest of the lime zest.

So I just frosted the cooled cupcakes with a large closed star tip, leaving an opening in the middle. I filled the opening with a dollop (isn’t that a great word- DOLLOP) of jam, and then grated some more lime zest on top. My jam happened to have some larger almost-whole blackberry chunks, which was perfect.

Look at this sweet little sunset-bathed blackberry lime cupcake.

Okay so here’s the deal. If you don’t want to make the jam, you can 100% use fresh blackberries; just plop a berry in the middle of each cupcake where the jam would go. Then plop another one on top, after it’s frosted, also where the jam would go. And then just grate the lime zest over it. You can actually use any kind of jam or berry you want, in theory. Lemon zest goes well with blueberry & strawberry, orange goes nicely with raspberry. Even marmalade would be nice, like a creamsicle cupcake. I’ve made lemon marmalade cupcakes before, but not orange. Hm.

Say hello to He Who Must Not Be Named (Harry Potter reference!). He’s fairly new- he just got here in February & he hasn’t gotten a lot of face-time, unlike Lola, who is basically the dominatrix/queen of everything around here. But he’s mega spiffy with his skull & crossbones sticker. And he wanted to say hi. So hi. Also, he’s a KitchenAid 9-Speed digital Architect model. Just in case you were wondering.

And that’s that. Now… on to the 600 other jars of jam I have in here.

Sources & credits: Ikea black bowl, Ikea cupcake tea towel, vintage silverware, Ball® 8-oz. crystal quilted jars can be purchased at freshpreserving.com.

Ricotta me, ricotta you.

One of my favorite cheeses? Ricotta. I used to eat it plain, spread on a crusty piece of Italian bread when I was a kid. Or right out of the container. Yet in all my years of baking, I’d never made ricotta cake! I know, I know. So this week I changed that.

 

What’s that? Oh nothin’, just lemon ricotta cupcakes with powdered sugar.

 

Did you just fall off your chair? I know, ’cause I almost did myself. Ricotta is fuckin’ amazeballs. Pardon my French- er, Italian. But it seriously is. It can be sweet or savory, used as a condiment or a filling, mixed with sugar… never-ending possibilities.

Ricotta (Italian pronunciation: [riˈkɔtta]) is an Italian dairy product made from sheep (or cow, goat, buffalo) milk whey left over from the production of cheese. Although typically referred to as ricotta cheese, ricotta is not properly a cheese because it is not produced by coagulation of casein. Rather it is made by coagulating other milk proteins, notably albumin and globulin, left over in the whey that separates from the milk during the production of cheese. In fact, ricotta is safely eaten by individuals with casein intolerance.

Ricotta (literally meaning “recooked”) uses the whey, a limpid, low-fat, nutritious liquid that is a by-product of cheese production. Most of the milk protein (especially casein) is removed when cheese is made, but some protein remains in the whey, mostly albumin. This remaining protein can be harvested if the whey is first allowed to become more acidic by additional fermentation (by letting it sit for 12–24 hours at room temperature). Then the acidified whey is heated to near boiling. The combination of low pH and high temperature denatures the protein and causes it to precipitate out, forming a fine curd. Once cooled, the curd is separated by passing through a fine cloth.

Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance, slightly sweet in taste, and contain around 13% fat. In this form, it is somewhat similar in texture to some cottage cheese variants, though considerably lighter. It is highly perishable. Ricotta comes in other forms as well.

RICOTTA CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • Zest of 1 (organic) lemon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons good quality Extra Virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 400˚ and line a muffin tin with liners. Cream the butter and sugar in a standing mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. On the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time. Then add the olive oil & beat. Slowly add the flour, salt, ricotta, lemon zest, & baking powder.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared liners about halfway and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  4. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn cupcakes out and cool completely on the rack. Use a sifter to coat in powdered sugar.

I made the full recipe and got 12 cupcakes and one round 8″ cake. You can make two 8″ cakes & layer them with the cannoli filling (keep reading) or some fresh whipped cream & berries, or you make a full 2-dozen cupcakes, or you can fill a 9/10″ springform pan. I guess you could use a 10″ bundt pan too if you really wanted.

Now, if you really want to be daring… or if you just want to make it totally over the top, you can add a cannoli cream filling. I chose not to, mainly because I had limited fridge space and also because I was bringing these somewhere and didn’t want to risk the filling getting gross. But I am giving you the recipe, ’cause I’m cool like that. I’d recommend making the filling on the same day you’ll be using it, and also the same day you’re serving it.

CANNOLI CREAM FILLING
.
Ingredients:
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese, drained as “dry” as possible
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • teaspoon lemon or orange zest, optional

Directions:

  1. Put the drained cheese in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Mix ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth & thick. Chill for about 20 minutes.
  3. Fill cooled cupcakes. Finito!

You’ll definitely need to store these in the fridge. The frosting is not stable at all and has a high cheese content. Ricotta is very delicate and must be chilled or else all kinds of nasties can grow. If you need help figuring out how to drain the ricotta, this website explains it pretty well. It’s very similar to the “jelly bag” concept in canning. I should stress here that the fresher the ricotta, the better. Artisan ricotta is the best to use, especially for the filling. For the cupcake itself you can get away with using a good quality supermarket brand.

But they’re pretty freakin’ awesome just with some powdered sugar! The cake is light & fluffy, with a super delicate lemon flavor. Not overpowering or heavy. I ate two in a row without blinking. It would make a great base for a strawberry shortcake too, given that it’s so light. You can even serve the cupcakes with fresh berries on top, or maybe a spoonful of lemon curd & some whipped cream. Or, some candied lemon peel. It’s the best spring or summer cupcake ever.

Queen of Hearts’ Linzer tarts.


All I kept thinking of when I saw these Linzer cookies on a white plate was the Queen of Hearts.

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed the fairy tale theme, right? Snow White, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, now the Queen of Hearts? If you haven’t noticed, what do I have to do, beat you over the head with my 800+ page volume of the collected works of the Brothers Grimm? Anyway… the Queen of Hearts poem above was supposedly in reference to the motif, or rather the suit, of hearts in playing cards; the character had been subject of songs & poems long before Lewis Carroll used her for his stories (although there is an extension of the above poem that includes characters from each suit- i.e., “The King of Spades flirts with maids”, etc, and why they never gained popularity I don’t know). Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts (from Alice in Wonderland) has been interpreted many different ways. Disney’s popular red-faced fat woman & Tim Burton’s short squat big-headed version are just two of the many, many variations. Contrary to popular belief, she is not the same person as the Red Queen from Through The Looking Glass. She’s her own person, the embodiment of passion & fury. It used to be that the Queen was represented in a more flattering way, but even still, before Disney & Burton there were versions of her that weren’t so pretty. Some of my favorites are:

Although Lewis Carroll’s particular version of the Queen didn’t bake any tarts, unlike the poem’s version, she just bitched & moaned about her red roses being white roses painted red. At any rate, the original Queen of Hearts baked some tarts, and in many illustrations they were heart-shaped, so these cookies or “tarts” made me think of that right away. Of course, it’s not the real version, as it goes with most baked goods we’re familiar with:

The Linzer Torte (or Linzertorte) is an Austrian torte with a lattice design on top of the pastry.[1] It is named after the city of Linz, Austria.

Linzer Torte is a very short, crumbly pastry made of flour, unsalted butter, egg yolks, lemon zest, cinnamon and lemon juice, and ground nuts, usually hazelnuts, but even walnuts or almonds are used, covered with a filling of redcurrant jam or, alternatively, plum butter, thick raspberry,[2] or apricot jam. It is covered by a lattice of dough strips. The dough is rolled out in very thin strips of pastry and arranged to form a criss-cross design on top of the preserves. The pastry is brushed with lightly beaten egg whites, baked, and sometimes decorated with sliced almonds.

Linzer Torte is a holiday classic in the Austrian, Hungarian, Swiss, German, and Tirolean traditions, often eaten at Christmas. Linzer Torte is often made like small tarts or cookies in North American bakeries.

Linzer sablés (German: Linzer Augen, “Linzer eyes”) are a cookie-sized version, made by cutting a circle of a similar dough, covering it with jam, placing a donut-like circle with a hole in the center piece of dough on top, and dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

I used a heart-shaped cutter, obviously, but you can use whatever shapes you want; hearts, stars, circles, diamonds, flowers, etc. Even just circles will work.

LINZER COOKIES- THE CUPCAKE REHAB WAY

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or one cup all-purpose and one cup almond flour)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure almond extract (or ¼ teaspoon if using almond flour)
  • Preserves for filling (raspberry, strawberry or quince work nicely, I also used candy apple- can be jelly, jam or thick preserves) or if you prefer, Nutella or a thick chocolate sauce

Directions:

  1. In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla & almond extracts. Gently mix in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to around ¼”- inch thick. Cut into rounds or whatever shapes you wish using lightly floured cookie cutter, cutting out smaller shapes from the centers of some. Re-roll & re-cut all the scraps until finished. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then gently move to rack to cool completely.
  5. Once cooled, spread preserves or jam or jelly on top of the “bottom” pieces, or “whole” pieces, going almost to the edge. Place the “window” or cut-out pieces on top, being careful not to press too hard or break them. Use the cut-out shapes as extra cookies, or “glue” them on top with a little bit of jam as I did. Or, “glue” them on before baking using a dab of water. Then sprinkle all cookies lightly with confectioner’s sugar.

Psst.. if the sugar on the jelly part bothers you, here’s a secret: it disappears after a while, and all that’s left is the sugar on the cookie. Like magic.

Oh and I should warn you. THIS IS A SHORTBREAD DOUGH. Therefore, it is very delicate. It will break if you move them too fast. They have to be thoroughly cooled and even then, if you make large cookies & don’t support them as you move them, they will break. Be aware. Example:

..

You know The Island of Misfit Toys? That’s the island of broken cookies. Oh well. They tasted just as good. Lesson learned; don’t watch TV while making cookies. Stick with the music. Although they made a good excuse to snack on some while putting the rest of them together. And don’t worry if your top pieces are a bit differently shaped than the bottom, they look great anyway, trust me.

I used Wilton heart-shaped cutters that came four to a box; two smooth edged red heart cutters, and two scalloped edge heart cutters. I got them at Target, they were around 5 bucks I think. They’re quite large, about 4-5″ across for the biggest one, so I got less cookies out of the recipe. If you have small cutters, then you’ll get far more. Duh. I happen to think they’re amazing because they’re so much bigger than normal. I want to make some heart-shaped homemade pop-tarts with them next.

Everybody thinks of them as Christmas cookies, but once they’re done in heart-shapes they become perfect for Valentine’s Day. So easy, so pretty. I used homemade (of course) strawberry jam (the dark red) & homemade candy apple jelly (the lighter color), but anything goes. For this time of year though, the heart-theme with the red colored filling is nice, but lemon curd also works nicely, as does apricot jam or jelly. And for St. Patrick’s Day, what else but shamrock-shaped cookies filled with bright green, glistening mint jelly? Actually that’s a really good idea…

Anyway, they’re great to package up (gently) and give to someone special. But if anyone takes or eats your cookies without asking, off with their heads!

¡Viva los Alfajores!

Well Happy New Year, everyone. It’s 2012, we’re all another year older & the winter has officially dug in its heels. Its quite cold & blustery & the wind whistles like a Dickens’ inspired movie. So yeah- I’d say it’s wintertime. Apparently, it’s not going anywhere until the spring, so we just have to deal. Life should be enjoyed, as much as possible, despite (and maybe even because of) the miserably cold weather. And what better way to enjoy life than with cookies? This is another cookie recipe from The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando. Remember that book? I did a giveaway for it back in November. Pretty much as soon as I got it, I knew there would be four recipes I’d have to make immediately: the frosted maple pecan cookies (made those babies already), the pistachio cookies (still on the list), the pignoli cookies (I keep forgetting to buy almond paste so these are still on the list) and of course, the alfajores with dulce de leche. And those, my friends, are what this post is about.

I admit, I had no freakin’ idea what the hell an ‘alfajor’ was before this. But I’m not one to turn down making a delicious looking cookie. I don’t know how anyone could deny a cookie, let alone a shortbread-like cookie, let alone a shortbread-like cookie made into a sandwich with dulce de leche filling.

While they have origins in Moorish Spain, alfajores are especially popular in South America. They are simple shortbread sandwich cookies with a sweet filling of dulce de leche. Different doughs are used for the cookies depending on the country. Some use normal flour dough, while others add cornstarch or even cassava flour for a more delicate crumb.

- courtesy of whats4eats.com

Literally translated, dulce de leche means “sweet from milk”. It is prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a product that derives its taste from caramelised sugar. It is a popular sweet in Latin America, where it is known under a variety of names. In Chile, Ecuador and Panama it is known as manjar. In Peru, Colombia and Venezuela it is referred to as manjar blanco or arequipe, depending on regional variations. In Mexico and Nicaragua is is commonly called cajeta. It is also found in Brazil, known by its Portuguese name doce de leite.

A French version, known as confiture de lait, is very similar to the spreadable forms of dulce de leche. A Norwegian version, Hamar-pålegg (“Hamar spread”), better known as HaPå, is a relatively thick and not so sweet commercial variant.

- Wikipedia

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Shortbread & caramel sandwiches. That’s basically what I said: “What the what?!” Insane. Insane goodness. They really are. And very easy to put together, especially since you can use store-bought dulce de leche with absolutely no problem. I however, used a clever little method that’s a personal favorite of mine to make a caramel-like filling using a boiled can of condensed milk. Mmm. This particular cookie recipe uses flour & cornstarch to create the perfect soft crumbly-ness that goes excellently with the thick caramel heavenly-ness in between it.

ALFAJORES WITH DULCE DE LECHE (from The Cookiepedia)

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar, for dusting
  • Dulce de leche, for filling

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter & sugar together for a minute or two, until they look light & fluffy.
  2. In the meantime, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder & salt in a bowl & set aside.
  3. Add the egg & egg yolk one at a time to the butter mixture, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix briefly. Add the flour mixture & mix until the dough just starts to come together.
  4. Working quickly, turn out the dough and use a little heat from your hands to make it a solid ball. Pull out a large piece of plastic wrap, then flatten the dough on top of it to make a disk. Double wrap it and refrigerate for 1 hour until firm.
  5. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpats®. Roll out the dough to ¼”-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Rotate the dough between rolls to make sure it’s not sticking. Using a 2-inch fluted or round cutter, cut out cookies & carefully place them on the cookie sheets, placing them about 1 inch apart.
  6. Chill the sheets again for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dough is once again very firm. Then bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops of the cookies have just firmed & the bottoms are just starting to color slightly. Cool on wire racks before assembling the sandwiches.
  7. Drop, pipe, or spread a teaspoon of dulce de leche into the center of each cookie, then top with another. Sift powdered sugar over the assembled sandwiches.

These are perfect winter cookies. Filling, and sweet but not too sweet. Comforting. And like I said… easy. I know this time of year everyone is sort of taking a deep breath after the craziness of the holidays have ended. But these are definitely worth the little effort they require. Plus, who doesn’t like an excuse to have the oven on this time of year?

Okay so, on to the dulce de leche. The author recommends using an artisanal or high-end brand, herself. Like I said, I used a caramel-like substance made from boiling a can of condensed milk & it was amazing. Not everyone is as ballsy as I am, and that can be a dangerous method. So naturally use whatever your comfortable with, and whatever brand you like. Of course, you can also make your own dulce de leche (she gives a recipe- but you’ll have to buy the book for that one!). Let me also state that they’d work amazingly well with a jam or chocolate filling, as well as a chocolate coating.

And of course, the packaging has to match the spectacular nature of what it holds, right?

My new favorite way of packaging cookies to give away is in jars. I started doing it with the first cookie recipe I made from this book, and it got such rave reviews I kept doing it. For Christmas, I gave tons of cookies, brownies & pieces of homemade fudge as gifts & most were in either tins or jars like the one above. This time, I dressed up the jar with an authentic vintage Air Mail envelope & some soft twine. I thought the name of the cookies was exotic enough that the envelope would be an appropriate label. These jars can be found in a lot of places, especially in plastic… the glass version like mine is a bit more costly usually, however occasionally you can get them for a good price. But you don’t have to just use flip-top jars. Even using quart or pint Ball® jars is an excellent idea- fill it up with cookies, put the lid on, cover the lid in a square of pretty fabric (or cupcake liner!), screw the band on, then tie on a label with some string or some ribbon & you’re good to go. They’re also great for giving chocolate dipped pretzel sticks or candied citrus peel because those items can be delicate.

So there you have it. Alfajores. Who’da thunk it?

Family Circle.

Seemingly, my grandmother saved everything. We always knew she was a bit of a pack rat. Remember when I found the untouched, still-in-plastic Sunbeam mixer? I’ve also got some of her vintage jadeite in perfect condition. So we knew she liked to keep things, and she definitely was the queen of saving things, and some of that was inherited by me & my mom (albeit in much weaker forms). But since she passed away, we’ve found some fantastic things in her dressers & desk drawers. Things that hadn’t been touched in 40-something years, unblemished by time. Things like one of her wedding invitations, my great-aunt & great-uncle’s wedding thank you & photograph, birthday cards from the late 1950′s and more. One of my personal favorites of all the things I found; untouched, unused matchbooks with my grandparents’ photos on them from the supper clubs they went to in the ’40′s and ’50′s. So spiffy. They just don’t do things like that anymore.

So one day back in August I went to meet my friend Brianne for coffee at Starbucks, and while I was gone, my mother was busy sorting through some of my grandmother’s things. She opened a drawer and underneath a stack of miscellaneous papers, found a Family Circle magazine from December 1963. In almost perfect condition, mind you.

As a matter of fact, some magazines I subscribe to currently arrive at my house in worse shape than this magazine is in. Of course, my mother texted me, knowing I’d love it & appreciate it more than most. I have no idea why my Nana saved it- there aren’t any pages folded over, or recipes circled. There aren’t any notations made and just flipping through it I didn’t see anything that I’d say was definitely something she’d have saved it for. But I’m certainly glad she did.

One of the first things I thought of when my mother gave it to me was “HOLY SHIT THIS IS AWESOME!” I love vintage everything & anything, from pretty much any time period (except the 1970′s- that was just a dreadful time, for clothes, music, everything). The color of the magazine was still so bright, it was almost as if it was printed this month. And the ads! I felt like I was getting a firsthand lesson in Don Draper‘s Mad Men school of advertising. Amazing.

The second thing that came to mind (other than, “They spell cookie with a ‘y’?”) was that nothing in this world is in fact ever “new.” The funny thing is that so much of the crafts or recipes in this magazine are just slightly different versions of things that I’ve seen very recently in not just Family Circle, but Better Homes & Gardens and also in Martha Stewart‘s Living. Like those wreaths! Hello, Martha, I see you taking those ideas from 1963!

And finally the third thing I thought was, “I wonder if there are any interesting recipes?” I knew that I wouldn’t be making anything from it for a few months, so after looking through it I put it aside in a safe place and waited until Christmas was closer before taking it out again. And whaddaya know… that’s NOW! I unearthed it once again & like I said a few days ago, I was immensely inspired by the awesome retro-ness of it. I decided I’d make one of the cookie recipes, and because they’ve always given me shit… I settled on their version of thumbprint cookies, using my homemade strawberry jam, among others, as the fillings.

So may I present to you the 1963 Family Circle version of ‘thumbprint cookies’… Ring-A-Lings!

RING-A-LINGS (from December 1963 Family Circle, adapted slightly by yours truly)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • dash of salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • assorted jams & jellies of your liking

Directions:

  1. Sift flour and salt onto waxed paper or foil.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until well-blended in a medium sized bowl; stir in dry ingredients, half at a time, blending well to make a soft dough; stir in pecans and vanilla. Chill several hours, overnight, or until firm enough to handle.
  3. Roll dough, a teaspoonful at a time, into marble-size balls between palms of hands; place 2″ inches apart on greased cookie sheets or cookie sheets covered in parchment.
  4. Make a hollow in the center of each with thumb or end of a wooden spoon; fill with about ½ teaspoon jelly/jam. Bake in a slow oven (300°) for 20 minutes, or until they’re starting to turn very slightly golden but not totally. Remove from cookie sheets and cool completely on wire racks.
*I omitted this ingredient completely

To quote Family Circle:

Here’s another buttery-good cooky that can be made as much as two weeks ahead. To store, layer with waxed paper or transparent wrap between; cover.

Side note: if you’re going to be making cookies, get cooling racks. Do not let your cookies cool on the pan! They will get mushy on the bottom & the texture will change. You need that air circulation to properly cool them. Of course, it’s recommended for cupcakes & cakes too, but I find it’s especially important with cookies.

Anyway re: the recipe, I changed a few things, one being the ingredient list included not unsalted butter but “butter or margarine.” So I changed it to what I thought was better baking-wise & flavor-wise. Also, they only mentioned a greased cookie sheet, but I prefer to use parchment myself, so I added that. I like my baking sheets to stay clean & my cookies to not stick, so parchment paper is my BFF. I’d also chill my dough for a bit next time before using, just so they kept a nicer shape. Last but not least… I’d make my indents or “thumbprints” bigger & deeper next time; the wooden spoon trick I included above was what I did, and while it was one I’d read in quite a few cookbooks, aesthetically, the cookie to filling ratio isn’t what I’d like. *big, long, dramatic sigh*

On that note, I will state here for the record that thumbprint cookies are not my jam (pun intended). I can’t quite get them to look as perfect as I’d like, ever. That’s what I meant by they give me shit. I can make the most complicated cake or cookie with no problem, but give me something simple & I can’t get it right. However in the interest of 1960′s baking research, I plodded on ahead & finished the batch instead of getting irritated & stopping. I also experimented with a variety of my homemade jams & jellies as filling; the best was the strawberry jam by far. Fig jam just melted into nothing, the cherry preserves pretty much absorbed itself into the cookie like a dark red stain leaving just a sad lump of cherry and the tea jelly stayed really nicely in shape, but the color was kinda meh. I didn’t even photograph them because they weren’t worth it. I didn’t want to open more jars unnecessarily but I was indeed curious about using my mint jelly & also perhaps making some lemon curd & using that. Next time! The strawberry jam & mint jelly would’ve looked so cute. And next time, I WILL make them look perfect. If it kills me. Not to get all Black Swan about it but seriously. It’s frustrating.

Although despite that- they were amazing! Everyone loved them. Of course I had to wrap ‘em up in my little jars to give away!

I used an old Christmas stocking pin & some pretty sheer green ribbon & it’s amazing how just doing that can dress up any old jar & make it look so cute. Plus, using old pins or brooches is a great idea because long after the cookies are gone, the recipient can wear it. Or at least see it & think of you & your delicious cookies! Another awesome idea is hanging an ornament off of the jar, so they can use it on their tree after the jar is empty.

And on that note… let the holiday baking begin!

Fiendish figs.

Before I get started with fiendish figs, let me say that my fiendish feline is extremely excited. See, because at this time of year everyone hangs up cardboard cut-outs or pictures of black cats, or has light up black cat figurines, and because stores are selling stuffed black cats & black cat costumes, etc, she thinks October is Arwyn Awareness month. Silly muffin. She thinks she should get royalties for all her likenesses out there. Though I must say, I do agree, she does deserve accolades & recognition… just look at how gorgeous she is! Coincidentally, last week it was her 9th birthday. I know, she doesn’t look 9! Happy birthday, sweet girl. ❤

20110828-100542.jpg

And so the Halloween season starts. SO EXCITING. By now, if you’re a regular reader, you know that Halloween is my most favoritest holiday. Last year, I put together a compilation post of some of my best Halloween ideas, but I did it before I posted any new ones, so be sure to check out the NEW compilation post and also Halloween category if you’re in search of ideas. Anyway, Halloween & me are BFF’s from way back. Seriously. I’m kinda obsessed with this holiday. It goes back further than me, though, it was my great-grandmother Rooney’s favorite holiday & my maternal grandparents loved it too, so in turn my mother always loved it. So growing up my house was always filled with different kinds of papier-mâché pumpkins & ghosts & goblins; many of which were vintage, handed down through the generations. As a matter of fact I see much of it in Martha’s Halloween magazines each year, labeled as ‘rare’ or ‘sought after.’ I have two pumpkins from the 1940′s that hang in my windows with lights in them that are probably worth a pretty penny. Not that I’d ever sell. As it is, my dumb ass just last week broke the last jadeite bowl of my grandmother’s that I had left in an act of stupidity.

So anywho, in the new 2011 Martha Stewart Halloween magazine (aka my 2nd bible, the first being this), stewed & honey-drenched figs are featured along with cheese as part of a Halloween menu. Ironically, the day I bought the magazine *cough*way back at the beginning of September because I’m insane*cough* I had also bought a delicious looking pound of fresh figs at my favorite market. Also equally ironic was that that evening, Punk Domestics posted a link on Facebook titled something along the lines of “Fig it up.” Hm. Were figs trying to send me messages? Are they trying to mess with my subconscious?

*cue theme from ‘Psycho’*

Not likely. It was just fig season, is all. But my story is far creepier. Either way, I got the message: time to work on those figs!

I hadn’t planned on preserving them, bit upon further inspection a few were ripening, and if you know figs you know that happens quite quickly. And once it does, it’s an express train to no-good town. So I decided to make some fig preserves, knowing full well I can’t leave well enough alone & that they would soon turn into something else…

The Common fig (Ficus carica) is widely known for its edible fruit throughout its natural range in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern region, Iran, Pakistan, northern India, and also in other areas of the world with a similar climate, including Arkansas, Louisiana, California, Georgia, Oregon, Texas, South Carolina, and Washington in the United States, south-western British Columbia in Canada, Durango, Nuevo León and Coahuila in northeastern Mexico, as well as areas of Argentina, Australia, Chile, and South Africa.

Figs can also be found in continental climate with hot summer, as far north as Hungary and Moravia, and can be harvested up to four times per year. Thousands of cultivars, most named, have been developed or come into existence as human migration brought the fig to many places outside its natural range. It has been an important food crop for thousands of years, and was also thought to be highly beneficial in the diet.

Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in jam-making. Most commercial production is in dried or otherwise processed forms, since the ripe fruit does not transport well, and once picked does not keep well.

-Wikipedia

It looks lovely in the sunlight…

As it got closer to October, I thought figs were an appropriate thing to use around this time of year. Seeing as how not only are they plentiful & in season, but they also look a bit sinister in the form of jam or preserves. Blood red & seedy, it could be any kind of body part or bodily organ in a jar for your Halloween pleasure. As a matter of fact, even when not in the form of preserves & just sliced figs look a bit strange. Plus, it pairs well with cheese, so it’s great to have a small plate of sliced figs or jar of preserved figs open for your Halloween party, with some Humboldt Fog cheese (as Martha recommends) or Brie, or even Mascarpone cheese & crackers. Alternately, you could make haunting little fig cookies, such as I did. You know, fiendish figlets; cookies somewhat like Fig Newtons… but scarier. Muahahaha. They even resemble cut-up fingers, sort of, especially if you roll your dough strips a bit thinner. Very Halloweenie. And also kind of vampirical (is that a word?) when you think about it. You cut through the flesh of a fig, which if ripe is almost bruised like human flesh, and you get to the bloody middle. How creepy & morbid am I!

I used Black Mission figs, which are a very sweet variety, therefore I added some lemon juice to my preserves as to add a little balance (and to add some acidity for preservation, just to err on the side of caution). I also chose to add a smidgen of super-finely chopped crystallized ginger, and by smidgen I mean smidgen. I didn’t want it too overwhelming, just a slight hint of it. Another excellent option is anise, if you like that, or even lemon zest. But just the fig alone is divine, however, so don’t sweat it if you’re not into the additions. I used (and slightly altered) an incredibly easy Emeril Lagasse recipe that you don’t need to process in a water bath; you can just jar it and refrigerate it for immediate use. And if you’re using it just for the cookies or for a date/time not too far in the future, and you’re just going to refrigerate it, then you can do that.

Speaking of those cookies…

It’s also pretty lovely in artificial light, wrapped in dough.

FIG & GINGER PRESERVES

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound figs, washed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅛ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon finely chopped crystallized ginger (or even more if you want a significantly more powerful ginger flavor)

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, mix figs and sugar together and cook on low heat, uncovered, about 30 minutes. After the figs break down slightly, about 10-15 minutes, add lemon juice and ginger, then stir.
  2. If processing, pour hot preserves mixture into a hot, sterile 1-quart or 2 (1-pint) glass canning jars, filling jar to within ⅛-inch from top; wipe rim and seal jar with lid. Put jar in water-bath canner or on rack set in a deep kettle and cover with hot water by 1 to 2 inches. Bring to a gentle simmer (180° to 185° degrees), and process, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer jar to a rack using tongs and let cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place. If not processing, pour into a warmed jar and cool then refrigerate and/or use immediately.


FIENDISH LITTLE FIG COOKIES (adapted from The Boastful Baker/Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard)

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 large egg white
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 8-oz. jar fig & ginger preserves

Directions:

  1. Cream together the butter, sugar and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl and paddle. Add the egg white and vanilla and beat in. Scrape down the bowl and paddle again. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight.
  2. Place racks in middle and lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into two 6 x 8″ rectangles. Cut each into 4 equal strips. Spoon a line of filling down the center of each strip. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together. Place on the parchment-lined baking sheets, seam side down. Place baking sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  4. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into 10 cookies. Bake, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.

The more I look at them, the more they look eerie. Maybe it’s just me, but they remind me of a Halloween candle I used to have that was in the shape of a hand, coated in flesh colored wax, but then when you burned the fingers… the wax inside was red. These are some spooky little cookies, huh?


This recipe can be adapted to use whatever kind of figs you have, actually almost any kind of jam, preserves or paste (i.e. guava) as well. The full recipe includes directions on making a fig filling instead of my preserves, if that floats your boat. I like mine for this time of year because they’re a redder color than the traditional fig filling, adding to the creepy vibe. You could also roll the dough into strips, fill it, fold it and them gently roll it thinner & cut out different shapes or just use the dough to make thumbprint style fig cookies. Use your imagination, that’s what this time of year is all about, isn’t it?

I sprinkled some orange sugar on each cookie before baking (black sugar would work well too!), and then when they were cooled, I stacked ‘em up and stuck in some cute little labels; similar to cupcake toppers I guess. I created them myself in Photoshop and have oh-so-kindly prepared & uploaded a .PDF file for your use, should you wish to use them for your own fiendish fig cookies. All I ask is that if you post them on your website or blog, please give credit where it’s due. If you have any questions or trouble with the PDF & you desperately want to use it, e-mail me & I’ll see if I can help you out.

Otherwise… enjoy eating your fiendish fig cookies. Eat them before they eat you, or serve them to your favorite vampire.

Image courtesy of the wonderful HBO

*ahem* Oh, wow, how did that picture get there? Ha. Okay, last week in my Halloween compilation post, I mentioned I’d be sharing Halloween legends & their Celtic origins in detail this year. And so, here’s a scary little vampire tale for you to kick things off, in keeping with the season:

Did you ever hear of the Irish Vampire “Dearg Due”? No, not the infamous Dracula who was created by an Irishman named Bram Stoker but a true Irish Vampire that haunts central Ireland. The very name, Dearg-due means “red blood sucker” in Irish. She is a fiend that seduces men with her beauty and then sucks them dry of their blood.

Ancient Celtic folklore speaks of an Irish girl well known through the Irish countryside for her great beauty. To her father’s fierce dismay she fell helplessly in love with a poor local peasant. Her father condemned their love and arrange for her to marry a wealthy business man who was anything but nice to her. So angry with her father and distraught by her plight she committed suicide.

Legend said she was laid to rest near Strongbow’s Tree in Waterford. On one cold, windy Irish night she rose from her shallow grave. She then hunted her domineering father and abusive husband and sought her vengeance by sucking their bodies dry of blood until they took their last breathe and died.

From such evil acts she will eternally be known as Dearg-due. The Red Blood Sucker Vampire who is forever dammed to rise once a year and to use her beauty to lure men to their deaths.

-source The Irish Jewelry Company